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Tories plan winter fuel payment cuts to help fund social care

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May

Wealthy pensioners will lose up to £300 in winter fuel payments and more elderly people could be forced to pay to be looked after in their own homes under Theresa May’s plans to tackle the social care funding crisis.

The Tory manifesto launched on Thursday will offer protection from the cost of social care for people with assets of £100,000 or less, a dramatic increase from the current £23,250 level in England.

In order to make the system sustainable, the value of someone’s property will now be included in the means test for care in their own home, meaning more people will be liable to contribute to the cost of being looked after.

And the winter fuel payment, worth between £100 and £300, will be means-tested and targeted at the least well-off pensioners instead of being a universal benefit paid to all.

The Sun reported that Mrs May will risk further angering older voters by scrapping the triple-lock on the state pension, which guarantees it rises by the highest of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

She will also ditch the “tax lock” introduced by David Cameron which forbids the Tories from raising income tax, VAT or national insurance contributions.
The plans are set out in a manifesto called Forward, Together, which the Prime Minister described as a “declaration of intent” to tackle the “great challenges of our time”.

Other measures in the manifesto, being launched in West Yorkshire, include:
:: Maintaining the commitment to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands“
:: Increasing the amount levied on firms employing migrant workers
:: Requiring foreign workers and overseas students to pay more to cover the cost of NHS care
:: Scrapping universal free school lunches for infant pupils in England but offering free breakfasts across the primary years
:: Pumping an extra £4 billion a year into the schools system by 2022
:: A package of proposals to help consumers avoid being ripped off

Caring for the UK’s ageing society is one of those challenges and the measures set out in the manifesto are aimed at getting more money into the system.

The money saved by means-testing the winter fuel payment will go directly to fund health and social care.

By including the home within the means test for domiciliary care, the Tories will bring the system into line with the test for residential care.

But as well as the measures to put more money into the system, the Tories will also put in place protections for people faced with potentially crippling care costs.

Under the current system, care costs can deplete an individual’s assets, including in some cases the family home, down to £23,250 or even less with no protection.

That will be replaced with a £100,000 floor, allowing elderly people to retain more of their wealth or pass it on to their families.

The Conservatives said the policy was fairer than the planned £72,000 cap on care costs which was due to be introduced in 2020 but will now be axed.

The Tories will also guarantee that no one, no matter how high their care costs, will have to sell their family home during their lifetime by extending deferred payment arrangements to cover domiciliary care.

Workers will also be given the right to request up to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative.

There will be a third more people aged 85-plus in 2024 than there were in 2014, and the growth of long-term conditions such as dementia has been putting increasing pressure on the social care system which can subsequently have knock-on effects on the NHS by putting strain on hospitals.

Detailed proposals will be set out in a green paper later this year, but the Tories want to improve co-operation between the NHS and care system, preventing unnecessary hospital stays and making better use of technology and specialist housing to help people keep their independence.

The issue is a sign Mrs May does not want her premiership dominated by Brexit, although she acknowledged that was the issue that would define the UK’s short-term future.
In her manifesto foreword, she said: “The next five years are the most challenging that Britain has faced in my lifetime.

“Brexit will define us: our place in the world, our economic security and our future prosperity.

“Now more than ever, Britain needs a strong and stable government to get the best deal for our country.”

Writing in The Sun, Mrs May said: “I am determined to cut the cost of living for ordinary working families, keep taxes low and to intervene when markets are not working as they should.”

As well as the previously announced cap on energy prices, the newspaper said the manifesto would also pledge to force mobile phone firms to make billing fairer, tackle rogue landlords and cut the cost of buying a home by cracking down on rip-off conveyancing and legal fees.

Ahead of the publication of the Tory manifesto, Labour produced a dossier listing what it claimed were 50 broken Conservative promises.

Labour’s campaign chief Andrew Gwynne said: “Theresa May pretends otherwise, but she is a politician with a track record of failure and broken promises.

“From the economy to the NHS, and policing to schools, Theresa May’s Tories have failed again and again to deliver on the pledges they made.”

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