Social care cap faces delay until election
The cap on social care costs promised by the Government could be delayed until after the next election, it emerged last night.
As part of plans to fill a £50billion black hole in the public finances, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Health Secretary Steve Barclay are understood to have approved a postponement of at least a year.
The two men also agreed that the NHS budget would be 'protected' from cuts.
A one-year delay on the original start point would entail October 2024 – close to the final date possible for the next election. But Whitehall sources said it might be pushed out further as ministers scramble to find savings.
One source pointed out that the health and social care levy, which was supposed to help pay for the care cap, has since been scrapped. They added: 'It's looking like at least a one-year postponement for now, but that could slip further by the time we get to the Budget on November 17.'
Further delay would mean the Government would fail to deliver on its 2019 manifesto pledge that 'nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it'.
Former pensions minister Ros Altmann said it was 'another betrayal of older people'. The row came as:
Rishi Sunak warned the Cabinet that the NHS faced a 'challenging winter';
Downing Street dropped a target to cut 91,000 jobs from the Civil Service;
Tory MPs warned that raising taxes to fill the hole in the public finances risked 'shrinking the economy';
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace appeared to accept boosting his budget to 3 per cent of GDP might be dropped;
A former deputy governor of the Bank of England said a windfall tax on the banks could raise tens of billions;
Unions warned they would resist proposals to limit public sector pay rises to 2 per cent next year.
Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt are engaged in a series of behind-the-scenes meetings with ministers about filling the £50billion expected deficit.
The Chancellor is targeting £25billion in spending cuts and £25billion in tax rises and on Monday the Treasury warned that 'everybody' faced tax rises. Sources said a planned four-year freeze in income tax thresholds would now last for six years, dragging millions of workers into higher tax bands.
Delaying it for a year would save the Treasury £1billion, with savings of up to £3billion a year possible if it is postponed for longer.
Baroness Altmann said: 'Here we are again. The Cameron government legislated for a cap and it never happened. Then Boris said the problem was fixed and people would not have to sell their homes. Well it isn't fixed, and it looks like it is about to be put in the 'too difficult' box again.'
Caroline Abrahams, of the charity Age UK, said ditching the cap would 'leave Boris Johnson's promises on social care in shreds'.
She added: 'In the last year the cap was substantially weakened by the Government's decision to invest less money in it, so if its implementation is now going to be postponed it will feel like the whole idea is being kicked into the long grass. That will be a bitter disappointment to many older people who pay for their own care and for their families.'