Andrew Lansley: Government plans would hit 700,000 family carers

Plans for a compulsory ‘death tax’ to fund free care for the elderly would unfairly punish 700,000 carers who look after older relatives, the Tories said yesterday.

  As ministers and care charities gather at an “emergency summit” to discuss proposals for a new National Care Service, figures released by the party show that hundreds of thousands of people give up more than 50 hours a week to care for elderly relatives.

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, warned that this group would be “unfairly penalised” if they were forced pay a compulsory levy on any inheritance when their relative died, even though they had not relied on the state to provide care.
They could also miss out on disability benefits, worth up to £70 a week, under Labour plans.

Mr Lansley, who is refusing to attend the talks, said: “Gordon Brown’s death tax is not only a very bad policy, it is an extremely unfair policy; it penalises those very people in our society that we should be rewarding.

“Hundreds of thousands of silent heroes, who care for their own family, would be hit twice over.

“They have spent years of their life caring for their loved ones, but when that loved one passes away Labour’s death tax would make them pay the state for care they never received.

“On top of this Labour want to take away the disability benefits that these people often survive on.”

Mr Lansley warned that many people who currently cared for relatives themselves would be tempted to take up state support under the Government’s plans, pushing up the cost of the scheme by an estimated £3 billion.

Care for the elderly has emerged as a key election battleground, leading to heated clashes between the parties over the last two weeks.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat heath spokesman will participate in the social care conference along with Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, and representatives from charities and care organisations.

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, was forced to deny that posters produced by the party featuring a tomb stone which accused Labour of planning a £20,000 “death tax” were a return to “Punch and Judy politics.” He pointed out that Gordon Brown had repeatedly failed to rule out such a levy.

The Conservatives have proposed a voluntary scheme, funded by a £8,000 flat payment on retirement.

In an article in today’s Daily Telegraph, Mr Lansley defended the decision to pull out of cross-party talks aimed at achieving a consensus on social care, saying that he could sign up to a compulsory levy or support Mr Burnham’s desire to change the benefits system.

He wrote: “A death tax would be unfair on families who care for elderly relatives themselves.

“It would discourage saving, and could leave those with the most modest savings facing inheritance tax at nearly 100 per cent.

“We believe that individuals and their loved ones are best placed to decide what sort of care is best for them.

“Our plan will also mean that no one is forced to sell their home to pay for their long-term care – a scandal that Tony Blair promised to end 13 years ago.

“Through voluntary insurance, we will enable people to protect everything that they’ve worked and saved for all their life.

“At its heart, this plan is about the defining value of the modern Conservative Party: responsibility. This means individuals, families and communities looking out for those around them.

“It means recognising that everyone has a contribution to make to the costs of care.

“And it means encouraging people to take more control over their lives.

“We will continue to expose and oppose Labour’s plans to impose a death tax, and to snatch benefits back from some of the most vulnerable in our society.”