Boris Johnson to announce social care reform amid outcry at expected National Insurance rise
UK Editor Paul Brand on how Boris Johnson aims to tackle the social care crisis amid a growing Tory backlash
Boris Johnson is expected to set out his plans to fund reforms to the broken social care system by announcing an increase to National Insurance payments on Tuesday, as he promised his government “will not duck the tough decisions”.
The prime minister will set out in the Commons how he aims to tackle the social care crisis amid a growing Tory backlash over reported plans to raise National Insurance to fund the changes to the system in England – in breach of a general election commitment.
Reports have suggested that lifetime contributions on care will be capped at about £80,000 and National Insurance payments will be increased by 1.25% to raise between £10 billion and £11 billion per year.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party will oppose the plans, supporting tax increases instead.
Sir Keir said: “The taxes that pay for social care should be fair across the generations and all forms of income. Those with the broadest shoulders should pay more – not the working families now set for an unfair tax rise”. And he added: “We’ve said that this additional investment will need to be funded through tax rises – but increasing national insurance contributions isn’t the right way to do it. “It would hit working people hard, including low earners and young people, and would place a huge burden on businesses just as they’re trying to get back on their feet”.
UK Editor Paul Brand on the crisis facing the social care sector and why the Prime Minister could be staking his career of his plans to reform it
As well as outline measures to support the NHS in its recovery from Covid, Mr Johnson is expected to tell MPs that the challenges faced by the health service and the social care system are closely linked.
Number 10 said a lack of integration between the two often sees people “stuck in the wrong care setting, and families worry about meeting the costs of care if they leave NHS provision”.
Downing Street dubbed as “unfair and often catastrophic” the situation where someone who has dementia may have to pay for their care in full, while someone cared for by the NHS would receive care for free.
It said one in seven people now pays more than £100,000 for their care, and said the system can lead to “spiralling costs and the complete liquidation of someone’s assets”.
Under current arrangements, anyone with assets over £23,350 pays for their care in full, but Number 10 said the costs were “catastrophic and often unpredictable”.
And Mr Johnson said: “We must act now to ensure the health and care system has the long term funding it needs to continue fighting Covid and start tackling the backlogs, and end the injustice of catastrophic costs for social care.
“My government will not duck the tough decisions needed to get NHS patients the treatment they need and to fix our broken social care system.”
Following a statement in Parliament, the PM – along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid – will give a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Ahead of the announcement, No 10 remained tight-lipped on the detail but senior Tories have been lining up to condemn a "stupid" tax rise.
On Monday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “We are committed to setting out long-term sustainable reform of the sector and that is what we will do, but beyond that, I am not going to be getting into any more speculation.
“The challenges that face the social care sector are long-standing and have successively not been addressed, and that is something the prime minister is committed to doing.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “A long-term plan on social care and a rescue plan to address the crisis the NHS has been in for years are both long overdue.
“The prime minister must set out how he will bring down waiting lists quickly, support the NHS workforce, fix crumbling hospitals and deliver modern equipment to speed up diagnosis of deadly diseases, and crucially, ensure more people can access the social care they need.”
Earlier, a government minister acknowledged there were no easy solutions but insisted that they had to take advantage of the opportunity offered by Mr Johnson’s 2019 general election win.
However former minister Jake Berry, leader of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, warned against a policy that appeared aimed at elderly voters in affluent southern seats.
He said that when Mr Javid was chancellor he had been a great believer in not “racking up the jobs tax” but appeared to have undergone a “Damascene conversion” since becoming health secretary.
Rossendale and Darwen MP Mr Berry said: “It doesn’t really seem to me reasonable that people who are going to work in my own constituency in east Lancashire, probably on lower wages than many other areas of the country, will pay tax to support people to keep hold of their houses in other parts of the country where house prices may be much higher.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today that as National Insurance was not paid by people who are retired there was also a question of intergenerational fairness.
“It doesn’t seem fair to me, particularly following this pandemic where so many people have taken great sacrifices to keep people safe, it’s particularly hit the youngest, particularly hit those in work, that we then ask those in work to pay for people to have protection in care.”
Tory former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood warned against a “stupid” tax rise.
“A tax on jobs when you want to promote more and better-paid employment is particularly stupid,” he said.
Tory former chancellors Lord Hammond, Lord Clarke and Lord Lamont have all criticised the plan to increase National Insurance, while former prime minister Sir John Major said it was “regressive”.
Meanwhile, former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told The Telegraph the plans were a “sham” because they did not reform the social care system, while the newspaper also reported the government was considering holding a snap vote in the Commons this week on the proposals.