Social care: Minister fails to guarantee people will not have to sell homes to pay for care

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A minister has failed to guarantee people will not have to sell their homes to pay for social care ahead of a possible Tory rebellion over the issue.

Paul Scully, the small business minister, told Sky News Boris Johnson's 2019 manifesto promise was a "single headline" and it is not possible to tackle the problem of paying for social care by boiling it down into one line.

The government is facing a possible backbench rebellion today over anger that the least well-off may still have to sell their homes to pay for care.

MPs will consider whether to accept changes to the government's proposed social care reforms announced last week that mean any help from the government will not count towards a lifetime cap of £86,000 - only what people pay privately.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said "everyone will be better off" under the reforms and Boris Johnson said a person's home will not count towards their assets if they are below £100,000.

"This is massively more generous than the previous regime," the PM said ahead of tonight's vote.

"Previously you had to pay for the cost of your care until you were down to £23,000, now we're saying if you have £100,000 or less we'll help you and that doesn't include your housing asset, your home.

"There's a housing disregard for as long as your spouse is in it so this is something that will benefit people across the country."

People receiving care in their home do not currently have their home counted towards their assets, neither do spouses of people in care homes who are still living in the family home, but this stops after they die so the payment is deferred to their children.

But MPs of all parties have said those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will, in fact, struggle to reach the £86,000 cap so may have to sell their homes to pay for care.

Mr Scully told Sky News' Kay Burley: "There will be fewer people selling their houses and hopefully none.

"I can't tell you what individuals are going to do.

"What I'm saying is the social care solution is all about getting a cap above which you do not need to pay - that gives people certainty."

Pushed on whether Mr Johnson was lying about nobody having to sell their home to pay for care, Mr Scully added: "No, I don't think he was.

"He was boiling down a complicated message - which is why social care hasn't been dealt with in at least 10 years - to something that people could appreciate."

He added: "If we boil it all down to a single headline then you'll never tackle any thorny issue like social care."

Mr Scully insisted that there needed to be a cross-party consensus on social care.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the County Councils Conference the change to how the cap is calculated is "very disappointing" and is "a less progressive measure than was hoped for".

But he urged MPs thinking of voting to throw out the changes this evening to refrain from doing so as he said the cap is the most important change and how it is reached can be altered.

"Once this cap has been introduced at this current level, it will be entirely open to governments in the future to change the way the cap is calculated to make it more progressive going forward," he said.

"I think the really important thing is we have a cap which we didn't have before and so we have a system in place and we can then have a grown-up political debate about how the cap should operate on."

However, Mark Harper, a former chief whip, confirmed on social media he would be voting against the amendment.

"The Government amendment on social care, due to be voted on at 10pm, makes a significant change to how the cost cap works. It potentially disadvantages the less well off and those of working age with life long conditions. I will be voting against it." he wrote.

Mr Harper urged health ministers to withdraw the amendment and instead include their proposal in a White Paper expected to be published by the government before the end of the year: "We can then discuss and consider it properly with all the facts at our disposal. I want our social care reforms to work."

A number of other Conservative backbenchers have also been critical of the proposals.

Former cabinet minister Damian Green told Sky News: "The flat rate means that you are much more likely to have to sell your house if you live in an area where house prices are lower, which is where most people are not well off, and that is monstrously unfair".

Former justice secretary Robert Buckland earlier said he was planning on voting against the plans during the vote at 10pm today.

Other backbench Tory MPs are expected to join him following lingering ill-feeling after being whipped to support former MP Owen Paterson in a standards row which the government then had to perform a U-turn on.

The PM defended his plans ahead of the vote, telling the CBI annual conference they are "incredibly generous and much better than the existing system".

"We are addressing a long-standing social injustice and it will benefit the people of this country," he added.

But shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News the details on the cap are a "care con".

He told Burley: "If you live in a £1m house in the home counties, 90% of your assets will be protected if you need social care but if you live in an £80,000 terraced house in Hartlepool, Mansfield, Bury, Wigan, you lose nearly everything, that is not fair.

"That's not levelling up, it's daylight robbery so we're saying to Tory MPs 'join with us tonight in rejecting this proposal and instead ask the minister to retreat to the drawing board and come up with something fairer'."

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