Prime Minister Theresa May launches the Conservative manifesto in Edinburgh, Scotland on May 19. (Photo credit: Reuters/Russell Cheyne)
By Drew McLachlan
Social care proposals in the Conservative Party manifesto drew criticism from pensioners as well as political opponents and one councillor cautioned that Asian families would be “hit particularly hard”.
In her biggest misstep of the campaign so far, prime minister Theresa May set out plans last Thursday (18) to make some elderly people pay a greater share of their care costs, before hastily announcing on Monday (22) that there would be a limit.
“We will make sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care,” May said in the Welsh city of Wrexham. “We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay.”
The proposal, a key Conservative pledge, will require elderly people with assets over £100,000, including their homes, to pay for their own social care.
The party manifesto clarified that those receiving social care would not be required to sell their home during their lifetime and that their families could maintain £100,000 equity in their home.
Presently, those with assets of over £23,500 are required to pay, though calculations do not include the value of one’s property. As a result, more homeowners are expected to be liable for covering the cost of carers and other services.
A Labour councillor in Brent, Krupesh Hirani noted that Asian communities, who “often live together across generations”, would face the brunt of the consequences if residences are included in social care calculations.
“In Brent and other areas, South Asian communities choose to live in the same family home and it is not uncommon for up to four generations of a family to be living in the same property,” he said. “The housing crisis has also meant that families are even choosing to build and expand their home and live together rather than enter the housing market.
“When elderly relatives pass away after receiving social care, their children could find themselves homeless. The Tories say that families will be able to keep £100,000 of equity in the family home. The average price of a property in Brent is £535,803, meaning that their children will have to find on average £435,000 to try and keep their family home.”
Labour said the prime minister’s change of heart had thrown her campaign into “chaos and confusion”.
“This is weak and unstable leadership. You can’t trust the Tories – if this is how they handle their own manifesto, how will they cope with the Brexit negotiations?” said Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s election coordinator.
May said the proposed changes to elderly care were part of an attempt to reform the care system for an ageing society.
“Nothing has changed, nothing has changed, we are offering a long-term solution for the sustainability of social care for the future,” she said, shaking her head and raising her voice as it was described as a U-turn by journalists. “Nothing has changed.”
The Conservative manifesto, released last Thursday (18), also contained a number of pledges relating to immigration, including the renewal of a previous pledge to reduce net migration into the UK to under 100,000 per year.
As of September 2016, annual net migration stands at 273,000 per year, down from roughly 322,000 in 2015.
The Tories have also pledged to double the charge, from £1,000 to £2,000, for companies employing foreign workers and increase the fee that foreign workers must pay to access healthcare to £600 per year, or £450 for international students.
International students will also be included in the “tens of thousands” immigration target and will be required to leave the country upon finishing their studies, unless they meet new additional requirements to remain.
Additional pledges were made to “bear down on immigration from outside the EU” across all visa schemes and to reduce the total number of asylum claims made in Britain, while promising to help people in “the most troubled regions”.