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Tory government continue to blunder on social care reform

Photo by Dominik Lange on Unsplash ()n his first speech as Prime Minister on 24 July 2019, Boris Johnson stated that the Government would "fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve." The Conservative Party's 2019 general election manifesto stated that a Conservative Government would seek a cross-party consensus in order to bring forward proposals for reform of how people pay for adult social care. It added that a prerequisite of the proposals will be that "no one needing care has to sell their home to pay for it."

In the same manifesto the Tories pledged not to increase income tax and national insurance. Over two years later we are still waiting as ministers argue over how to reconcile the two promises, with all the signs being that the wrong choices are going to be made.

The Independent reports that the Prime Minister faces a furious backlash over plans to target younger workers with a manifesto-busting £10bn-plus tax hike to pay for older people's social care. Anger is focussing on the controversial decision to increase National Insurance contributions (NICs) for around 25 million workers, which is believed to have been agreed, with ministers now wrangling over the exact level of the rise before an announcement next week.

The proposal has come under fire from former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said a NIC hike "disproportionately targets the young" and called instead for a new "health and care premium". And Liberal Democrats said the floated rise would be "unfair and unjust", because it will "hit the youngest and the lowest paid whilst protecting the wealthiest".

The plan has also been blasted by Mr Johnson's former adviser Dominic Cummings as "a big policy and political blunder" which could cost the prime minister his position:

Writing in his blog, Mr Cummings urged Tory MPs to "scream" for the plans to be torn up, warning that they will be seen by average and low income workers as "another subsidy for the older middle classes".

Any hike would also breach a Conservative Party promise in its 2019 manifesto not to increase the rates of income tax, NICs or VAT.

Lib Dem health spokesperson Munira Wilson asked: "Has it really taken all this time to make a decision to rip off the people who can least afford to shoulder the burden of social care?

"Some people affected are about to get their £20 per week Universal Credit cut. Now thanks to this government they are getting a cut and a tax hike."

National Insurance is currently paid at 12.5 per cent of income, but higher earners pay only 2 per cent on salaries above £50,000 and pensioners do not pay the levy.

Campaigners argue that the prime minister's plan will mean younger, lower-earning workers - many of whom cannot afford to buy their own homes - paying more in order to fulfil Mr Johnson's promise that the elderly will not have to sell their homes to pay for care.

Alicia Kennedy, director of the Generation Rent campaign for private tenants, said: "National Insurance disproportionately affects young people and lower paid workers who are already struggling to pay rent, let alone save for their retirement.

"The wealthy minority who get their income from renting out property, owning a business, have inherited wealth or investments won't pay a penny more.

"Coming out of the pandemic, 353,000 private renters are in rent debt. They can't save, and are further than ever from being able to buy their own home. An increase to National Insurance will not help the government meet its pledge to turn generation rent into generation buy."

Everybody agrees that social care needs to be properly funded but let's ensure that money comes from those who can afford it, not the least well-off.