Election 2017  

Fears social care reforms face future in the long grass

Fears social care reforms face future in the long grass

Social care reforms are now likely to be kicked into the long grass as the Conservatives deal with the fallout from a weakening of their majority in the House of Commons.

The social care crisis was one of the key battlegrounds of the election with the Conservatives’ so-called “dementia tax” hitting the headlines.

The Conservatives’ initial manifesto plan was that elderly people should fund the entire cost of their social care, until they got down to their last £100,000. There was no mention of a cap on costs, which under the Coalition Government had been planned to be £72,000 before David Cameron delayed it to 2020.

Faced with a backlash, the Conservatives did an about turn and announced there would be a cap at an unspecified level after all.

By 2025, there will be 2.8 million people over 65 needing nursing and social care, unable to fend for themselves, many suffering from dementia.

Rachael Griffin, financial planning expert at Old Mutual wealth, said Ms May "painted a target on her back" when she announced her controversial social care plans as she faced negative public sentiment towards her proposals and seemed unable to answer crucial questions.

"She is now unlikely to be able to get such a controversial policy through parliament.

“The solution to the social care crisis needs to be a long term one, and should not be a policy that is allowed to flip-flop with the political current.

“As the new government starts to consider the social care crisis, policymakers should look to form a social care policy which represents an acceptable compromise for all parties via a cross-party parliamentary group.

“A social care green paper is required and hopefully that will propose solutions that are simple, sustainable and communicated in consumer friendly language. Anything else will leave the public back at square one.”

But Tom McPhail, head of policy at Hargreaves Lansdown, thinks the likelihood of a green paper on social reform is less likely than if there were a strong Conservative majority.

“The Conservatives were right to raise the issue of care provision and funding but arguably it was this as much as anything which lost them the election. Implementing policy change on this huge area of policy would have been challenging for a strong government, now it looks a massive uphill struggle for the next government to bring through any really meaningful change in this policy area.” 

Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London, also believes the prospect of an early solution to the social care funding crisis is unlikely.

 "A minority government will struggle to pass any major reforming legislation which creates gainers and losers. Reforming the funding of social care will almost certainly be kicked into the long grass.”

He added: "For decades governments have set up Royal Commissions and expert reviews to tackle the thorny issue of social care funding.

"Just as it looked as though some decisions were going to be made we now have a government which will struggle to get anything contentious through the Commons and the Lords.