Social careMar 8 2022

Lords vote against ‘divisive’ social care cap

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Lords vote against ‘divisive’ social care cap
Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The House of Lords has voted to remove conditions placed on the £86,000 care cost cap proposed by the government as part of its social care reform.

In a debate yesterday (March 7), peers dubbed the cap in its current state “divisive” and “regressive”, saying it flew in the face of Sir Andrew Dilnot’s ‘Fairer Care Funding’ report which recommended a zero cap for those under 40.

Whilst 198 members of the House voted in favour of dropping the government’s proposed cap - set to come into effect for people in care from October 2023 - 158 voted against its removal. Labour member Baroness Wheeler moved the amendment. 

Prior to the vote, Wheeler called the cap “a last-minute, hastily scraped together, ill-thought-through mishmash of subsections added to an essentially NHS Bill”.

“Despite the pledge that nobody should have to sell their homes, the fact is that someone with assets of £100,000 will lose almost everything, whereas someone with assets worth £1mn and over will keep almost everything,” said Wheeler.

These divisive plans will not stop people needing to sell their homes to pay for care.Baroness Brinton

The cap, announced in September by prime minister Boris Johnson, was designed to limit how much any one person spent on social care during their lifetime. 

But a few months later the government said any care funded through the means tested system would not count towards the cap. 

“The bombshell of abandoning the key safeguarding Dilnot principle enabling local authority care costs to count and accrue towards the cap means that poorer people will be exposed to the same care costs as the very wealthiest in society,” said Wheeler.

“Clause 155 [the cap] must be deleted so that the key Dilnot principles of fairness and equity across all those needing social care can be reinstated.

“Deletion of the clause would mean that implementation of the care cap could proceed but under the provisions of the fully scrutinised Act designed to implement it: the Care Act.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said its social care charging reform proposals “strike the right balance” between public contributions and people’s personal responsibility for planning for their care.

“They are necessary, fair and provide certainty and reassurance so people can both plan for their future and pass on more of what they have saved to their loved ones,” the spokesperson said.

Clause 155 overall is a regressive measure which will particularly affect younger disabled adults.Baroness Campbell of Surbiton

Wheeler was not the only peer to speak out against the inclusion of the cap. Baroness Brinton, former president of the Liberal Democrats, said the cap “was not widely consulted on” and “is a deeply unfair element” of the government’s new social care reform.

She added: “Far from fixing the ongoing crisis in social care ‘once and for all’, which the prime minister said from the steps of Number 10 Downing Street in 2019 he would do, these divisive plans will not stop people needing to sell their homes to pay for care and are a breach of the government’s promise in that election.”

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton said the cap was “a regressive measure which will particularly affect younger disabled adults”, echoing worries expressed by Sally Warren, The King’s Fund’s director, who said in November the cap posed “catastrophic costs” for disabled working adults.

This rebellion will likely be short-lived.Shaun Moore, Quilter

“I am afraid that in Clause 155 there is a very hollow ring to that much-trumpeted fairness—in fact, it does the opposite,” said Campbell.

“Having to give a large part of your modest income to the state—almost 40 per cent in some cases—because you happen to be born disabled, or to become disabled early in life, impoverishes those who already have disability costs, averaging £583 a month. 

“The evidence shows that this group will suffer most in terms of their health and well-being. Trapped in poverty, they will never achieve what the government claim they want disabled people to aspire to—so much for the levelling-up agenda.”

Shaun Moore, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter, said while evidence exists that a cap excluding means tested care costs would disproportionately affect those with more modest levels of assets and wealth, he reckons MPs will seek to overturn the House of Lord’s decision to remove it.

“This rebellion will likely be short-lived,” said Moore. “Once the Health and Care Bill goes back to the Commons, it is very likely MPs will seek to overturn this decision, though some MPs will put up a fight.”

He concluded: “There is a relatively large population of Conservative MPs against the cap on social care costs, which meant the vote only just went through in November 2021, so the government’s whipping operation will be in full force to get it through again.”