Rebel MP on why he voted against the government on social care cap

MP Peter Aldous

Waveney MP Peter Aldous. - Credit: Jamie Honeywood

One of Norfolk and Waveney's MPs was among the 19 Conservatives who rebelled against the government over social care reforms.

Critics say the change has the potential to unfairly hit poorer pensioners, but supporters say it improves on the current situation.

Prime minister Boris Johnson narrowly succeeded in getting MPs to back his new policy to cap care costs in England on Monday - by 272 votes to 246.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19).

Prime minister Boris Johnson. - Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

But 19 Conservatives rebelled, with Waveney MP Peter Aldous among them.

He said he did so out of concern for people living in modest homes in towns like Lowestoft.

The move to exclude means-tested council support payments from the new £86,000 lifetime limit on social care costs, had been criticised.

Experts warned that could mean poorer individuals will reach the cap faster than those who are wealthier - so may have to sell their homes to help pay for their care.

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And Mr Aldous said: "I cannot support something that is going to be targeted to hit those living in homes worth between £100,000 and £180,000."

He said, during the coalition years, there were regular committees formed between parties, which ironed out problems before they came to the House of Commons.

But Mr Aldous said that, recently, it sometimes seemed legislation was proposed without sufficient scrutiny until it became public - which forced MPs like him to consider rebelling.

Ministers had been unable to say whether the change to the £86,000 cap on care costs would fulfil an election pledge to guarantee no-one would have to sell their home to pay for care.

But Mr Johnson had defended the plans as "incredibly generous" and "much better than the existing system".

Under the plans, people with assets of less than £20,000 will not have to contribute anything to their care - up from the current level of £14,250 - while those with assets worth up to £100,000 will be eligible to receive some local authority support, up from £23,250.

Other than Mr Aldous, all Norfolk and Waveney's Conservative MPs voted in favour of the change.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker has been getting an increased number of dog theft reports. 

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker. - Credit: Archant

And Duncan Baker, Conservative MP for North Norfolk said the new system was "vastly better" than the current set-up.

He said: "In 2019 I stood on a manifesto that promised people wouldn't have to sell their homes to pay for their care.

"Last night I voted for the cap on care charges that will protect the homes and assets of those needing social care services.

"At the moment, anyone with assets more than £23,250 are self-funding their care, and it is only when assets fall below £14,000 they stop making this contribution.

"In the system I supported last night, no-one will pay towards their care if their assets are lower than £20,000 and they will not be self-funding unless their assets are greater than £100,000 and no-one will pay more than £86,000 for their care in their lifetime.

"This is a vastly better system than anything that we have in place.”

Jerome Mayhew, Broadland MP said he echoed those sentiments, while Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said: "After decades of NHS spending outstripping local council care, this government is right to finally tackle the injustice of so many families having to give up every penny of their heard earned savings on care for elderly relatives.

"The vote was one part of a whole series of reforms to improve the funding and integration of NHS and social care. The vote stops the injustice of anyone with assets over £23,250 having to self fund their care.

"Now, no-one will pay towards their care if their assets are lower than £20,000 and no-one will be self-funding unless their assets are greater than £100,000 and no-one will pay more than £86,000 for their care in their lifetime.

"There's much more to do, but that's a big improvement for local families here in Norfolk."

Question time event at Notre Dame High School, Norwich.MP Clive Lewis.Picture: Nick Butcher

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. - Credit: Nick Butcher

But Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, who voted against it, said: "If the government had any doubt about the government's intentions in this bill, then this social care vote should have dispelled them.

"This is a bill that will make the less well off pay for the care for the better off.

"Just as it will further privatise the NHS by handing yet greater powers to private corporations and unaccountable integrated care systems."

Norfolk's other MPs were contacted to explain why they had voted the way they did, but did not reply.

The Health and Care Bill was being debated again on Tuesday, but is expected to receive extended scrutiny in the House of Lords.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK charity director, said: "The government's amendment may have been passed by the House of Commons, but no doubt the House of Lords will fulfil its constitutional role and give it the intense scrutiny it needs. We hope peers will vote to overturn it.

"No one disputes that the amendment significantly waters down the government's plan for a cap on catastrophic care costs and does so in a way that protects only the better off.

"This is unfair and means the people who are most in need of protection against the risk of their care bills wiping out all their assets are least likely to receive it."

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