Boris Johnson Breaks Election Promise About Not Raising Taxes to Pay for Elderly Care Reforms
11:42 GMT 07.09.2021 (Updated: 13:53 GMT 01.03.2022)
A growing percentage of Britain’s population are over the age of 70 and the demographic change has created a social care time bomb. For the last decade governments have put off the inevitable reforms, knowing they would be unpopular with those forced to pay the cost.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has broken a general election promise not to raise taxes as he announced plans for a major revamp of the social care system.
He told Parliament on Tuesday, 7 September, National Insurance contributions - which are paid by those of working age, in employment - will have to rise by as much as 1.25 percent in order to pay for the care reforms.
At the 2019 General Election the Conservative Party’s manifesto contained a promise not to raise taxes, and the opposition Labour Party seized on the U-turn.
Labour leader Keir Starmer, pointing at the government benches on which Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid sat next to Johnson, said: “They have all broken that election promise.”
Johnson admitted breaking a manifesto promise was not something he “did lightly” but he said the costs of dealing with the pandemic had forced it upon him.
But the prime minister said: "We must act now to ensure the health and care system has the long-term funding it needs to continue fighting COVID and start tackling the backlogs, and end the injustice of catastrophic costs for social care. My government will not duck the tough decisions needed to get NHS patients the treatment they need and to fix our broken social care system."
Currently individuals have to use up their life savings or sell their homes in order to pay for their care, either at home or in care homes.
One in seven people ends up paying more than £100,000.
The government says the cost of domiciliary care is “catastrophic and often unpredictable'' and it is also putting a strain on local councils, who have to bear the cost for those on low incomes who have no homes or savings to fall back on.
In 2016 there were 11.8 million UK residents aged 65 and over, representing 18% of the population. That figure is expected to rise by 8.6 million by 2066, making the elderly more than a quarter of the population.
Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, came up with a solution which would have involved cutting benefits to pensioners to pay for their care but it was dubbed a “dementia tax” and was dropped after the 2017 general election, when she lost her majority.
Johnson had a dig at previous prime ministers when he said: “Some of us have ducked these problems for decades” and added: “There can be no more dither and delay.”
The new scheme will be introduced from October 2023 and Johnson said nobody would be expected to pay more than £86,000 towards their care over their lifetime.
He said those who had less than £20,000 in savings or assets would not be expected to contribute towards their care.
Jake Berry, a Conservative MP, predicted Johnson’s proposals would help affluent, older voters but harm younger, poorer people.
Former Tory party leader William Hague, said the broken promise represented a “loss of credibility when making future election commitments, a blurring of the distinction between Tory and Labour philosophies, a recruiting cry for fringe parties on the right, and an impression given to the world that the UK is heading for higher taxes.''