Tory manifesto re-states pledge to bring in delayed social care costs cap

A Conservative government would continue with its plans to cap social care costs from late next year, the party’s manifesto has stated.

Adult social care takes up only around 100 words of the 76-page document, and was not mentioned by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in his speech setting out the party’s priorities on Tuesday.

In the manifesto, the party promised to take forward previously announced reforms and to give local authorities “a multi-year funding settlement to support social care” were it to be in government at the next Spending Review.

It added: “We will attract and retain a high-quality care workforce, make reforms to shape the market for older people’s housing and support unpaid carers.

“We will implement our planned reforms to cap social care costs from October 2025.”

Adult social care charging reforms – including an £86,000 cap on the amount anyone in England has to spend on their personal care over their lifetime – had been due to be implemented by the Conservative Government from October 2023 but were delayed by two years.

One sector leader accused Mr Sunak of making “vague pledges” which will not deliver the “bold reform that social care needs”.

Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group (ICG) which represents providers in North Yorkshire and York, said he would cautiously welcome the re-commitment to the care costs cap, which is aimed at helping people with the high price of such care.

But he added: “This measure has been promised time and time again and has been repeatedly kicked down the road – I think before we cheer this news, we would want to see it actually happen.”

Referencing Mr Sunak’s admission that people are frustrated with the party and with the PM, Mr Padgham said: “Yes, I am frustrated that once again social care has been relegated to a paragraph in the manifesto.

“It is so high in the party’s priorities that it was not even mentioned in this morning’s speech. The Conservatives continue to run away from social care.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said parties are under no obligation to say they would go ahead with the cap on “catastrophic care costs” from next year, and so the manifesto “commits the Conservatives to pressing ahead”.

But she added: “Against a context of repeated delays concerning the policy since it was first formulated some 15 years ago, questions surely remain over whether it will ever see the light of day.”

The Nuffield Trust health think tank described the manifesto commitments as “laudable aspirations” which had previously been set out, but said a “complete absence of any new funding” for the sector “and no plans to create detailed implementation plans leave warm words about attracting people to the workforce and supporting unpaid carers sounding hollow”.

Its chief executive, Thea Stein, said there is “a big question mark” over the re-commitment to the care cap, due to the fact there is “no source of sustainable revenue identified”.

She added: “Given the state of local authority finances and the fact that the original money earmarked for the cap has been redirected into day-to-day running costs, it is difficult to see how this promise can be fulfilled.”

Care England, representing providers across the country, welcomed the promise of a multi-year funding settlement for local authorities but noted there was “little to no detail on how pledges would be achieved” overall for the sector.

The National Care Forum (NCF), representing not-for-profit social care, said the manifesto “disappointingly” leaves social care “firmly in the shadows”.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2024, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Gareth Fuller / PA.