Public should not be ‘conned’ tax rise will fix problems facing social care, Parliament warned

People should not be “conned” into thinking a £12 billion tax hike will solve the problems facing social care, it has been warned at Westminster.

The criticism came as legislation goes through Parliament which paves the way for the Prime Minister’s plans for a 1.25 percentage point increase in national insurance from April 2022.

The health and social care levy will hit employers and employees and breaks Boris Johnson’s 2019 election manifesto commitment not to raise taxes.

The proposals, which include capping the total lifetime cost of care in England at £86,000 from October 2023, is also intended to generate funds to help deal with the NHS backlog.

But speaking in the House of Lords, Labour peer Baroness Pitkeathley (pictured), a former chief executive of Carers UK, said it represented “a failed opportunity”.

She pointed out the levy would initially go to support the health service as it recovers from the pandemic, before then being used to help the social care sector.

While she did not “begrudge the money to the NHS”, she added: “I just do not want anyone to be conned into thinking that the tax raised by the levy will solve social care problems.”

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tyler of Enfield also argued social care needed funding urgently.

She said: “The post-pandemic NHS backlog will not be solved without an immediate injection of cash in the social care sector.

“Immediate funding is needed for the quality of care, to introduce minimum standards for the care homes and provide respite for unpaid carers.

“And above all, we urgently need a new deal for the care workforce: training and development, career progression and recognition. Care staff who have given so much during the pandemic deserve to be paid well above the minimum wage.”

Responding to the debate, health minister Lord Kamall said: “There is no getting away from the fact that the last 18 months have been incredibly tough for social care. The challenges have been unprecedented.

“So we all agree that we must address the long-term future of social care in this country.”

He said previous suggestions and proposals to tackle the issue had “gathered dust whilst successive governments of all colours kicked the proverbial can down the road”.

Lord Kamall told peers: “The Prime Minister decided that his Government would not shirk the responsibility and stepped up to publish a plan.”

He said: “The Government is absolutely clear that we should not pass on the costs to future generations and increase public debt even further.

“By using national insurance contributions the Government is also ensuring that both businesses and individuals contribute.

“Those earning more will pay more. And it has a clear UK-wide approach, meaning everyone pays the same wherever they live in the UK.”

Lord Kamall added: “It has been kicked down the road for many generations.

“Not all proposals will be perfect. Any proposal will have its critics. That is the nature of political debate.”

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