Social care costs cap set to be introduced by Government after Lords back down

A planned £86,000 cap on care costs is set to be introduced after peers backed down over their demand for a Government rethink, amid concerns it is unfair to poorer people.

The House of Lords voted by 196 to 160, majority 36, against a renewed Labour move to amend the proposed reform aimed at sending it back to the Commons again for further consideration.

A fresh bid in the upper chamber to improve workforce planning in health and social care in England also failed.

Peers rejected by 204 votes to 169, majority 35, a move to force ministers to publish a report every three years on staffing needs, aimed at tackling shortages.

Both issues had been key areas of contention during the passage of the Health and Care Bill through the Lords.

But the unelected House ultimately gave way after the Commons, where the Government has a majority, repeatedly rebuffed changes it sought to the legislation.

It marks an end to the tussle between the two Houses over the Bill, known as parliamentary ping-pong.

With the current parliamentary session expected to end on Thursday, the stand-off had to be resolved before then or the legislation would have fallen.

Critics of the proposed social care cap had 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) said: “The cap level and implementation strongly favour the better off and would bring almost nothing to the worst off. This is unfair and the opposite of levelling up.

“Older people and those with modest means all fare badly under the Government’s charging proposals.”

She added: “Somebody with assets of £100,000 will lose almost everything, while someone with assets of over £1 million will keep almost everything.”

But defending the measure, health minister Lord Kamall said: “It is fair and affordable, and designed to end the pain of unpredictable care costs by capping the amount anyone would need to pay at £86,000.”

He added: “This House will be aware that governments of all parties, for many years, have considered social care but not implemented reforms due to concerns about the affordability of introducing a cap.

“I have said previously that reports have gathered dust on shelves but never actually been implemented. Now we have a real opportunity to grasp the nettle.”

Lord Kamall said any issues or problems would be picked up by pilot schemes and told peers that “we can then tweak the system to address any shortcomings”.

Stressing the need for improved workforce planning, Labour’s Baroness Merron said: “We need a national staffing picture, otherwise how will we know whether we are training enough staff to meet the needs of the country? Yet the Government continue to refuse to commit to producing such an assessment.”

Tory peer and ex-Test and Trace chief Baroness Harding of Winscombe, who stepped down as chair of NHS Improvement last October, said: “Throughout the passage of this Bill… we have all been clear that if we do not resolve the workforce issues – the people issues in the NHS – everything else is for naught.

“Yet we come to end of this process and there have been no changes at all.

“It is with great sadness that I speak today because I feel that, despite the great work that has been done and all the best intentions, things will not improve.”

Lord Kamall insisted steps were already being taken to improve workforce supply and planning in the sector.

After clearing the Lords, the Bill will now go for royal assent.

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