LONDON — The Conservative party has announced a partial U-turn on its controversial “dementia tax” proposals after a widespread backlash.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Monday morning a climb-down on her election pledge to hike the cost of care for tens of thousands of people, dubbed the “dementia tax.”
Speaking at a press conference in Wales, the prime minister said there would be a consultation over the plans which “will propose an absolute limit on what people will have to pay,” although she did not specify a figure.
She insisted that “nothing has changed” regarding the substance of the proposals.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Evening Standard: “We want to make sure that people who have worked hard and saved up all their lifetimes, do not have to worry about losing all their assets through a disease as random as dementia.
“That’s why we want to introduce and absolute limit on the amount of money anyone has to pay for their care.”
The move appeared to be an attempt to quell the growing unrest against the proposals, which saw Labour narrow their gap with the party to single figures according to a poll published on Sunday.
Senior cabinet figures began hinting at a U-turn on the care proposals over the weekend. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Sunday that he “understood concerns” about the changes and promised a consultation before changes are pushed ahead.
In 2015, the Conservatives announced a total cap on social care of £72,000, which appeared to have been abandoned on Friday when the party published its manifesto.
The manifesto detailed proposals to charge people with assets worth over £100,000 for care within their own homes, the cost of which is currently largely state-funded.
The U-turn is only partial: The plan to begin charging elderly people for care within their homes will remain in the plans, Sky News reports.
The Bow Group — a well-respected right-wing think tank — was one of many to roundly criticise the proposals when they were announced.
Bow Group chairman Ben Harris-Quinney said: “These proposals will mean that the majority of property owning citizens could be transferring the bulk of their assets to the government upon death for care they have already paid a lifetime of taxes to receive.”
He added: “It is a tax on death and on inheritance. It will mean that in the end, the government will have taken the lions share of a lifetime earnings in taxes. If enacted, it is likely to represent the biggest stealth tax in history and when people understand that they will be leaving most of their estate to the government, rather than their families, the Conservative Party will experience a dramatic loss of support.”
Other think tanks with expertise in social care also criticised the proposals. Chris Ham, chief executive of The King’s Fund, said: “Instead of fundamental reform, these proposals involve tinkering with a broken system and do not provide the sustainable solution that is desperately needed.
“Raising the means-test threshold to £100,000 will provide some protection for people with modest assets. However, including the value of people’s properties in the means test for social care provided in their homes is likely to mean more people end up paying for these services. Abandoning the cap on care costs — a manifesto commitment just two years ago — will fail to help most of those unfortunate enough to face catastrophic costs.”
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Our front page exclusive @EveningStandard on social care u-turn + @Arsenal isn’t for sale & Charles Powell on risks of big Tory majority pic.twitter.com/wQwf290hzp
— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) May 22, 2017
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