The new care cap - and why fears remain it could penalise the poorest

File photo dated 04/09/21 of a care home resident holding hands with her daughter. The Government ha

There are fears the poorest could be penalised under the government's new care cap - Credit: PA

In the run-up to the 2019 election, Boris Johnson said no-one should have to sell their home to pay for care in later life. Two years later, there are fears some may still have to.

MPs voted 294 - 244 to support the government's Health and Care Bill. All but one of Norfolk and Waveney's Consrvative representatives supported the bill, namely Waveney's Peter Aldous, with Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis also voting against. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the legislation reflected the government's commitment to end "the crisis in social care and the lottery of how we all pay for it"

He said: "We are introducing a cap on the care cost so that no-one will have to pay more than £86,000 in their lifetime, a cap that will be there for everyone, regardless of any condition that they have, how old they are, how much they earn and where they live."

Once the limit is reached, the bill for care will be picked up by councils, with the money coming from a new health and social care levy.

Currently anyone with assets of more than £23,250 has to fund their care costs with no upper limit. Many have had to sell their homes or seen their life savings dwindle away.

The new bill will enable anyone with assets of up to £100,000 to receive some help towards them, if it is passed by the House of Lords and becomes law. 

But campaigners fear the changes will penalise the poorest. Jo Willingham, information and welfare manager, at Age UK Norfolk said: "The balance is wrong in terms of those who have lower assets, living in low income areas where house prices are lower.

Most Read

"An £86,000 cap would seem to balance against people in poorer areas. If you have assets of £106,000, the full £86,000 is 81pc of their wealth. 

"A person with five times that will pay the same amount that will equate to £16pc of their wealth."

Among those most reliant on social care are those living with dementia. James White, head of campaigns at the Alzheimer's Society, said“While we had welcomed the government’s decision to cure the care system after decades of neglect, the cap on care costs is still worryingly high with only one in five people with dementia estimated to ever reach the proposed cap limit. 

“There are more than 16,700 people living with dementia in Norfolk. The funding of care should be spread between all of us in society – just like the NHS and other public services.

"People with dementia are on their knees – finding care difficult to access, costly, inadequate and deeply unfair – the government must inject enough cash to improve quality and make this a system we all want to grow old in. 

"There’s a historic opportunity to get this right, we encourage the government to properly grasp the nettle – while dementia isn’t curable yet, the care system is.” 

Lin Whitehead, of Norwich-based Clapham & Collinge Solicitors, specialises in legal issues affecting older and vulnerable people .

“The amendment to England’s social care plans bring more confusion to an already confused system and will be unlikely to save many people any money," she said. "There may be a positive difference for a very limited number of people but certainly not poorer pensioners. 

“It’s clear the safety net for individuals has some significant holes in it. None of us can rely on it and each of us should make both a health and a wealth plan. It’s time we stopped thinking of planning for the future as something we do in later life. "

While some may will still be faced with having to sell their home to fund care up to the cap, they can delay doing so until after their death by entering into a deferred payment agreement (DPA) with Norfolk County Council.

If agreed, the council funds care costs throughout a person's lifetime, recouping the money by selling the property after they die.

Some 60 were granted in the year to March, totalling £4.2m. Some 157 applications were received. A spokesman said most applications did not complete because of the property being sold prior to approval or the applicant passing away during the approval process.

What's in the bill?

People with assets worth less than £20,000 will not have to use their nest egg to pay for care. But they may have to contribute from their income.

Those with between £20,000 and £100,000 may qualify for council help but will have to pay £86,000. Once they reach the cap, the council will cover all of their care costs

Those with more than £100,000 will receive no council help and have to pay up to £86,000​​​​​​ before the council will pay their care costs.​

Councils' costs will be covered by a proposed health and social care levy added to taxpayers' bills.

The cap only includes money spent on care such as help with washing or getting dressed. It does not include living costs, such as food, rent or bills.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter