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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Tory MPs set to rebel against ‘crazy’ social care rethink amid fears poorest will be hit hardest

Boris Johnson faces a rebellion on Monday over his social care reforms, after a former Cabinet minister confirmed he will vote against the plan and other Tories derided it as “crazy”. 

Ministers have come under fire for changes to proposals which critics have said will mean poorer recipients of care, including those in the North of England and in areas with lower house prices, will be hit hardest by a cap on costs.

Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, revealed on Sunday that he was minded to vote against the change to the Health and Social Care Bill when it comes to a Commons vote on Monday.

“Quite a few colleagues have concerns and have flagged them,” he said. “Everything is happening at breakneck speed, which has keyed off a lot of people, me included.”

Ministers should publish a long-promised White Paper on social care before forcing legislation through Parliament, he said.

‘Changing the goalposts again, halfway through the match’

Christian Wakeford, a Tory MP from the 2019 intake, declared on Sunday that he too was “not particularly happy” with the reforms. He told Times Radio they amounted to “changing the goalposts again, halfway through the match”.

Hinting that he could rebel or abstain, he warned that Conservative backbenchers’ support “shouldn’t be taken for granted” and called on ministers to agree a “sensible compromise”.

Another Tory representing a “red wall” seat in the North of England said of the plan to cap lifetime care costs at a flat rate of £86,000: “It’s crazy what we’re doing. It makes me wince.”

The MP added: “The numbers basically show that yes, you will keep more money under this plan if you are a constituent of mine, but only a little bit more. Unlike people in other parts of the country who’ll be able to keep a lot more.”

Changes mean ‘far less protection than expected’ 

Ministers announced earlier this autumn that an £86,000 cap on care costs would be introduced from October 2023. Meanwhile people with assets up to £20,000 will not have to contribute anything to their care, up from £14,250, while people with assets of up to £100,000 will be eligible to receive some local authority support. 

However, the Government clarified last week that for people who receive financial support from the council for part of their care, only the share they contribute themselves will go towards the £86,000 cap.

Campaigners warned the change would mean such households receiving “far less protection than expected”, and that they could still face catastrophic costs that would eat up a greater share of their assets compared with wealthier recipients.

A third northern Tory MP hit out at the Government’s attempt to ease backbench anger by offering a “last minute” phone briefing with Gillian Keegan, the Care Minister, on Friday afternoon.

“It shows how out of touch they are with Northern colleagues that they’d arrange a call when Northern MPs are trying to serve their constituents,” the MP said, who accused ministers with safe seats in the South of underestimating the importance of MPs’ Friday surgeries.

Other senior Tories who have expressed concerns about the proposal were understood to be considering their positions, including former Cabinet ministers Jeremy Hunt and Damian Green.

On Sunday, Sajid Javid insisted that “everyone” will be “better off” under the Government’s new plans, regardless of their postcode.

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