Johnson chairs Cabinet ahead of controversial social care funding shake-up

Downing Street hopes to present the package as an attempt to help the NHS clear backlogs (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Archive)
9:39am, Tue 07 Sep 2021
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

Boris Johnson has briefed his Cabinet on plans to reform health and care funding, which are expected to tear up Tory manifesto commitments.

The Prime Minister will set out in the Commons later how he aims to tackle the social care crisis in England, with the risk of a Tory backlash if he raises National Insurance to pay for the reforms.

The tax hike, thought to be about 1.25 percentage points, will raise around £10 billion, which will be spent on the NHS as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic as well as to help people avoid crippling adult social care costs.

Cabinet ministers returned to Downing Street for a face-to-face meeting for the first time in 2021, with many around the table concerned about breaking a general election promise not to raise National Insurance.

Downing Street hopes to present the package as an attempt to help the NHS clear backlogs, as well as resolve long-standing issues around care costs.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid arrives in Downing Street ahead of the Government’s weekly Cabinet meeting (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

No 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”.

And Downing Street described 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 No 10 said the costs were “catastrophic and often unpredictable”.

Ahead of his Commons statement, 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.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives for the Cabinet meeting as ministers returned to Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

“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.”

After presenting his plans to the Cabinet, Mr Johnson could face a hostile reception in the Commons, with Labour and Tory MPs concerned about the impact of a rise in National Insurance contributions, which will hit workers but leave sometimes-wealthy pensioners untouched.

Finally, Mr Johnson,along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, will attempt to sell the plan to the public in a Downing Street press conference.

Reports have suggested that lifetime contributions on care will be capped at about £80,000, and National Insurance will be increased by 1.25% to raise between £10 billion and £11 billion per year.

Ahead of the announcement, No 10 remained tight-lipped on the detail, but it has been reported that the proposals will be called a health and social care levy.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News that while he wanted to meet every manifesto commitment, the UK economy had gone through an “unprecedented shock” after the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked on Sky News whether he was “comfortable” breaking the 2019 manifesto commitment, he said: “I want to meet every single manifesto promise that we make, that’s the right thing to do.

“We have gone through an unprecedented shock to the economy because of the global pandemic and we’ve had to deal with it and make some really tough decisions.”

But in a further sign of Tory discontent, 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.

And the Guardian reported a Conservative frontbencher was considering their position over the plans.

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.”

The changes would only apply in England, as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have separate arrangements for social care.

It is not yet clear how any national insurance rise would be dealt with in the devolved nations.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “Boris Johnson gave voters a cast iron guarantee that he would not raise National Insurance – and now he’s breaking voters’ trust again.

“Even worse, the Government’s plans won’t fix the social care crisis. Our loved ones will still not get the quality care they need.”

Sign up to our newsletter