Young people to bear brunt of social care reform if National Insurance rises as expected

Libby Wiener reports on the crisis in social care and the struggle to find a way to pay for it

Young people look set to bear the brunt of the government's social care reforms, with National Insurance rises expected to be used to pay for the long-planned changes.

The government has refused to confirm or deny widespread reports that National Insurance will rise, with the justice secretary telling ITV News it is "premature" to talk about proposals which are not expected to be announced until Parliament's return next week.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has reportedly pushed for a two per-cent increase to help fully fund the plan, according to the Times.

The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, reported that Downing Street prefers a one per-cent rise in the national insurance rate, a tax affecting some 25 million workers and employers.

Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, would not confirm either report when asked by ITV News Correspondent Libby Wiener, but did say "the British public know that reforming social care will come at a cost".

He also appeared acknowledged that a National Insurance hike will hit young people more severely than older generations, who are not required to pay the tax after retiring.

"All of us at some stage are going to be elderly", Mr Buckland said, "and therefore this is an inter-generational issue and that means that all of us have a responsibility to shoulder that burden."

The Treasury is reportedly pushing for a 1.25% increase.

Multiple sclerosis patient Ruth Green says the government should pay to support people like her

Even a modest increase is likely to be met with a fierce backlash as the Conservatives vowed not to raise the rate of income tax, VAT or national insurance in their 2019 manifesto.

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to bringing forward a long-term plan to reform the social care system and we will set out proposals this year.”

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt, the former Tory health secretary who now chairs the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, suggested that any rise in national insurance will unfairly impact younger people.

"A rise in income tax feels very unconservative after the progress in reducing it during the 1980s, and national insurance disproportionately targets the young," he said. "Therefore, I personally favour a new health and care premium. "Given that health spending is going to dwarf all other spending in the years ahead, such a premium would allow an honest debate at every election about the level of funding we want."

His comments come as Boris Johnson faces mounting pressure to spell out plans for social reform, which he said were ready when speaking on the steps of Downing Street in 2019.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: PA

Cuts to council funding from central government and a shortage of care workers are among the litany of problems plaguing the social care sector, which helps older and disabled people with everyday tasks like washing, dressing, eating and taking medication.

In the largest ever survey of home care providers, it was revealed yesterday that the sector is facing its worst staffing crisis in history, with thousands of vulnerable people going without care as a result. Some 78 per cent of providers who responded to the exclusive survey, carried out by ITV News in conjunction with the UK Homecare Association, said recruiting carers is the hardest it has ever been.

The carers who are having to put on a brave face despite facing the worst staffing crisis ever, ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reports

In England, social care is generally not provided for free, with only those with savings and assets worth less than £23,250 qualifying for council help.

Despite the number of older people asking for assistance from their local authority increasing since 2010, fewer now qualify for support in their own home or in care homes.

Multiple sclerosis patient Ruth Green told ITV News the government doesn't "give anyone enough money" and said they should help people like her.

Ms Green pays for her own care but said many people with multiple sclerosis cannot afford it.

While there is cross-party agreement for urgent reform of social care to address these problems, there is much disagreement over how to pay for the overhaul.

Reacting to the briefings, Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrats spokesperson for health and social care, said the reported two per-cent increase being sought by Mr Javid was “unfair and unjust”.

“Sajid Javid is putting the burden on the same people who have been hardest hit by the pandemic, and Boris Johnson has today broken his manifesto promise not to raise taxes,” the MP said.