Government suffers fresh defeat as peers insist on rethink of ‘unfair’ social care costs cap
A rethink has been demanded by peers of the Government’s planned £86,000 cap on care costs, amid concerns it was unfair to poorer people.
The House of Lords backed by 160 votes to 151, majority nine, to amend the proposed reform and so ensure it is sent back to the Commons again for further consideration.
The upper chamber also defied the Government to insist on steps to improve workforce planning in health and social care in England.
Peers supported by 187 votes to 151, majority 36, a move to force ministers to publish regular independent assessments of current and future personnel needs, aimed at tackling shortages.
The Lords has dug in its heels despite the Tory-dominated Commons previously rejecting changes to the Health and Care Bill.
The fresh defeats mean a continuation of the legislative tussle between the two Houses over the legislation, known as parliamentary ping-pong.
The clock is also now ticking for the legislation with the end of the parliamentary session in sight.
Critics of the proposed social care cap have warned the move to count only individual payments towards the limit and not local authority contributions would cost poorer people more in assets than the wealthy.
Labour frontbencher Baroness Wheeler (pictured) argued the Government “sorely needs to think again” about how the cap is implemented.
She said: “Despite the Prime Minister’s pledge that nobody should have to sell their homes, the fact is that somebody with assets of £100,000 will lose almost everything while some with assets worth £1 million will keep almost everything.
“People with low levels of wealth will be exposed to the same care costs as the very wealthiest in society. They will end up spending the largest levels of their income on care.”
Lady Wheeler said her proposal would ensure local authority care costs count towards the care cap and that no charges are imposed on disabled adults under the age of 40.
Tory former health secretary Lord Lansley said: “I don’t think we should kid ourselves, the Government are planning to do something which in my view is exacerbating significantly the inequitable characteristics of the way the cap works. It is regressive in its effects.”
He added: “The structure the Government is now bringing in for people with relatively few assets will mean that they continue to lose effectively 100% of their assets. And people who have substantial assets will only ever lose a modest proportion of those. So it is not fair.”
Liberal Democrat Baroness Walmsley said: “The Government savings will be paid for by the poorest and most vulnerable.”
But referring to the cap, health minister Lord Kamall said: “It’s not a target to work towards, it is a backstop to make sure people are not liable for unlimited costs when it comes to care.
“When we compare it to the current system we do believe it is better, but I understand there are concerns in this House.”
Earlier, he told peers: “It is the only affordable plan on the table and is the only fair plan on the table, ending unpredictable care costs for everyone by introducing the £86,000 cap on the individual personal care costs.”
The Lords also renewed its demand for better staff planning in the NHS and care sector.
Conservative former health minister Baroness Cumberlege said: “Workforce is actually the greatest problem facing the NHS and social care and we are in crisis. We have to handle this problem.”
Tory peer and ex-Test and Trace chief Baroness Harding of Winscombe, who stepped down as chair of NHS Improvement last October, said: “Addressing the workforce shortages in our health system is a wicked problem. It is both complex and complicated and it’s a problem that’s shared by every healthcare system in the world.”
But Lord Kamall said: “The Government is committed to improving workforce planning and we recognise the importance of having a properly trained workforce.
“We are taking a number of steps to ensure we have record numbers of staff working in the NHS and we will continue to commit to grow and invest in the workforce.”
Peers also inflicted defeats on the Government in backing moves to ensure the buying of health service supplies avoided modern slavery and curb the intervention power of the Health Secretary in reconfiguring NHS services.
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