The Tories used their general election manifesto to reveal their true callousness. They decided to squeeze more money out of elderly people to pay for social care, and hit less well pensioners by cutting winter fuel payments and ditching the “triple lock” on pensions (introduced in 2011 the triple lock guarantees that the basic state pension will rise by 2.5%, the rate of inflation, or average earnings growth, whichever is largest).
Initial proposed changes to social care had the appearance of something worked out on the back of an envelope, were uncosted, and immediately provoked a huge backlash. Currently anyone with assets of over £23,250 is expected to pay the full cost of their care. If you are in a care or nursing home, the value of your house can be taken into account up if your total assets are over £100,000.
But that is not the case if you receive care in your own home. The Tories reversed this position saying the value of the home may be factored in if you receive care at home, although — maybe they thought they were being humane here — the money will not be taken from your estate until after your death. Some people could now face losing their home after they die and will not be able to pass it down to their children. The Tories also removed the cap on the amount people had to pay.
Labour led the outcry against the proposals, dubbing them a “dementia tax”. Theresa May was forced to make a u-turn and reintroduced the cap on payments (though not specifying what that cap might be), mumbling about how the whole package was still in the process of being planned. This is not much of a u-turn. People will still risk losing their home to pay for care in their own home. £23,000 is not an amount most working class people have tucked away for a rainy day. Many, even most, homes are worth over £100,000. This is a big and regressive change.
It is very ironic that working-class people can now be forced to lose the value of the home the Tories encouraged so many to buy often, extolling the pride over having “something to leave for future generations”. The Tories’real intention is to open up new markets in the insurance industry for products to cover elder care. With private companies in on the “business of care”, after-death sale of homes will likely be forced, no matter who is living there. Working-class people will also avoid asking for social care in order to protect the value of their home, opting to live with discomfort and stress. Elderly spouses and other family members will take up the burden of care.
As socialists we do not champion the ownership of private property. We support inheritance taxes for the very wealthy and ultimately, the communal, social and democratic ownership of all property and wealth. However we must defend the right of working-class people to hold onto the value of family homes — homes which have been paid for out of a lifetime of wages.
Although Labour has not said it will scrap all social care charges, it has promised to keep and increase the cap on spending and increase the social care budget under a National Care Service. Labour should have promised to scrap charges but it is clear that the Party’s priority’s are clear and very different to the Tories. Everyone is likely to become sick or old. There is only one rational political choice to make: vote Labour!