The new government plan for social care costs, which Labour branded as “Robin Hood in reverse”, has passed by a slim majority of 26 votes. 272 MPs voted for the move, while 246 voted against – including 19 Tory MPs.
Under the plans announced by ministers earlier this year, it was thought that any care costs incurred would count towards a new £86,000 limit, at which point the state would step in, as recommended by a report shelved a decade ago.
But the government revealed last week, while the Commons was debating MPs’ second jobs, that it would amend the Care Act 2014 to make the change to the way that people within the means test progress towards the cap.
Following the vote this evening, only costs actually paid by an individual will qualify. The government will not account for any means-tested help received from the state, making it likely that only richer people will reach the cap.
Resolution Foundation director Torsten Bell argued that the move undoes the purpose of the cap, which was “ensuring those with fewer financial resources make a smaller contribution towards their care costs than those with more”.
He added: “Where would this change leave us? With the cap’s benefit for those with under £100k of assets much reduced – this techy sounding shift could double your care costs if you’ve got around £90k but makes no difference to someone with £500k who gets almost all their assets protected.”
The government faced dissent from its own backbenchers over the proposed change. Conservative MP and former chief whip Mark Harper said “ministers haven’t properly worked with the sector or MPs to explain their thinking or decisions”.
Jeremy Hunt, a Conservative MP, former Health Secretary and current chair of the health and social care select committee, described the policy as “very disappointing” and said it was “less progressive… than hoped for”.
Tory MPs were on a three-line whip to vote for the amendment detailing the specifics of how the care cap of £86,000 will work, put down by Sajid Javid, to the health and social care bill this evening.
Labour’s amendment, which it dubbed a “safeguard from cronyism” by the party, was designed to ensure a full and transparent process before contracts can be awarded to non-NHS providers. It was defeated by 302 votes to 195.
Ahead of the debate, Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth described the government’s plans for the care sector as a “care con”, pointing out that individuals who own a home worth £1m would see 90% of their asset protected while those with an £80,000 house would lose “nearly everything”.
Homeowners in the poorest areas of England face losing a three times greater share of their housing wealth to pay for social care than people living in the most affluent areas, according to The Guardian.
Writing exclusively for LabourList this morning, the Shadow Health Secretary took aim at the health and social care bill as a whole, questioning whether the NHS needed an “unnecessary and distracting top-down reorganisation” when it faces “potentially the most difficult winter in its history”.