Labour and Conservative manifestos: what are their plans for adult social care?
With the General Election looming on the horizon and the nation taking to the polls on 8 June 2017, the two big parties have released their manifestos. They both include their proposed plans for reforming health and social care – as expected, social care has been a talking point throughout this election campaign period.
At present, people with assets of less than £23,250 may receive full or partial financial aid from their Local Authority to help pay for their social care on a means-tested basis. For those who move into a residential or care home, the value of their home is taken into consideration when assessing assets, which is why many people are required to sell their home to fund their care. For people receiving care at home, currently the value of their home is not included in their assets. A proposed cap of £72,000 payable in a person’s lifetime towards their care was put forward in the 2014 Care Act, but has never come into force.
Here we outline the key points from each party with regards to changing the current social care system.
The Conservative manifesto says that: “It is not fair that the quality of care you receive and how much you pay for it depends in large part on where you live and whether you own your own home.”
It says that means-testing should be the same for both at-home care and residential care, so that people are “looked after in the place that is best for them”. This means that the value of a person’s home will be taken into consideration alongside other assets wherever care is received.
The means-test threshold would be raised to £100,000, over four times the current threshold, meaning that this sum should be retained by a person, including value in the family home, regardless of how much care costs.
For everyone, whether receiving care at home or in residential care, payments can be deferred and taken from a person’s estate or upon the house being sold, so that they do not need to sell their home in their lifetime. However, this is essentially a loan from the Local Authority, who can charge a fee for this as well as interest (this is explained on the Full Fact website).
The manifesto says that these plans would maximise “protection for pensioner households with modest assets, often invested in the family home, while remaining affordable for taxpayers.”
It also outlines a forthcoming green paper that will address system-wide issues to improve the quality and cost of care. This includes better integration with the NHS to help people transfer from hospital to at-home care quicker; encourage technological solutions to help people live independently for longer, combat loneliness and help with dementia research. It also proposes a new statutory entitlement to carer’s leave.
Winter Fuel Payments would be means-tested and supplied on the basis on need, with the money saved being invested back into the health and social care system. All other pensioner benefits would remain.
The Labour manifesto says that the party wants to bring all care closer to home: “Labour will focus resources on services to provide care closer to home and deliver a truly 21st century health system. We will work towards a new model of community care that takes into account not only primary care but also social care and mental health.”
It proposes a move towards a National Care Service for England and away from privatised care services. This would be built alongside the NHS, with the two services working together in a joined-up capacity. The service would require an additional £3 billion of public funds a year. the extra funding would ensure that there is a maximum limit on lifetime personal contributions to care costs and raise the asset threshold for state support – no figures on these are stated in the manifesto.
It says that social care budgets would be increased by £8 billion over the lifetime of the next Parliament, including an additional £1 billion in the first year. This would be enable “providers to pay a real living wage without cutting the quality of care they provide. It will allow implementation of the principles of the Ethical Care Charter, already adopted in 28 council areas, ending 15-minute care visits and providing care workers with paid travel time, access to training and an option to choose regular hours.”
Carer’s Allowance for unpaid full-time carers would be increased to be in line with the rates of Jobseeker’s Allowance.
The Winter Fuel Allowance, along with free bus passes, would be guaranteed as universal benefits for all.