Boris Johnson to unveil social care and NHS reform plans to MPs

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as he walks on Downing Street in London, Britain, August 24, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as he walks on Downing Street in London, Britain, August 24, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The prime minister is reportedly set to raise National Insurance contributions to fund social care - a move which goes against a manifesto pledge

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Boris Johnson has vowed "not to duck the tough decisions" as he prepares to unveil plans to fix the social care system to the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The prime minister will tell MPs how he aims to tackle the social care crisis amid a growing Conservative backlash over reported plans to raise National Insurance to fund changes to the system - in breach of the Conservatives' general election commitment.

As well as outline measures to support the NHS in its recovery from Covid, Mr Johnson is expected to tell MPs that the challenges faced by the health service and the social care system are closely linked.

No 10 said a lack of integration between the two often sees people “stuck in the wrong care setting, and families worry about meeting the costs of care if they leave NHS provision”.

File photo dated 20/10/20 of staff on a hospital ward. The NHS is as stretched now as it was at the height of the pandemic in January and things will get worse before they get better, health leaders have said. Issue date: Tuesday July 27, 2021.
File photo dated 20/10/20 of staff on a hospital ward. The NHS is as stretched now as it was at the height of the pandemic in January and things will get worse before they get better, health leaders have said. Issue date: Tuesday July 27, 2021.

And Downing Street dubbed as “unfair and often catastrophic” the situation where someone who has dementia may have to pay for their care in full, while someone cared for by the NHS would receive care for free.

It said one in seven people now pays more than £100,000 for their care, and said the system can lead to “spiralling costs and the complete liquidation of someone’s assets”. Under current arrangements, anyone with assets over £23,350 pays for their care in full, but No 10 said the costs were “catastrophic and often unpredictable”.

And Mr Johnson 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.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid alongside Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, during a visit to Milton Keynes University hospital. Picture date: Tuesday August 10, 2021.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid alongside Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, during a visit to Milton Keynes University hospital. Picture date: Tuesday August 10, 2021.

Following a statement in Parliament, the PM – along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid – will give a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Ahead of the announcement, No 10 remained tight-lipped on the detail.

On Monday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are committed to setting out long-term sustainable reform of the sector and that is what we will do, but beyond that, I am not going to be getting into any more speculation.

“The challenges that face the social care sector are long-standing and have successively not been addressed, and that is something the Prime Minister is committed to doing.”

Earlier, a Government minister acknowledged there were no easy solutions but insisted that they had to take advantage of the opportunity offered by Mr Johnson’s 2019 general election win.

Armed Forces minister James Heappey told LBC: “This is going to be hard, there will be no consensus, but we have to try, because if you can’t do it with a majority of 80, when can you?” However former minister Jake Berry, leader of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, warned against a policy that appeared aimed at elderly voters in affluent southern seats.

He said that when Mr Javid was chancellor he had been a great believer in not “racking up the jobs tax” but appeared to have undergone a “Damascene conversion” since becoming Health Secretary.

Rossendale and Darwen MP Mr Berry said: “It doesn’t really seem to me reasonable that people who are going to work in my own constituency in east Lancashire, probably on lower wages than many other areas of the country, will pay tax to support people to keep hold of their houses in other parts of the country where house prices may be much higher.”

Dr Jess Harvey administers the second dose of Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to care home assistant Amanda Lucas at the Lady Forester Community nursing home in Much Wenlock, Shropshire. Picture date: Thursday March 25, 2021.
Dr Jess Harvey administers the second dose of Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to care home assistant Amanda Lucas at the Lady Forester Community nursing home in Much Wenlock, Shropshire. Picture date: Thursday March 25, 2021.

He said that as National Insurance was not paid by people who are retired there was also a question of intergenerational fairness.

“It doesn’t seem fair to me, particularly following this pandemic where so many people have taken great sacrifices to keep people safe, it’s particularly hit the youngest, particularly hit those in work, that we then ask those in work to pay for people to have protection in care.”

Reports have suggested that lifetime contributions on care will be capped at about £80,000 and National Insurance will be increased by 1.25% to raise between £10 billion and £11 billion per year. Tory former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood warned against a “stupid” tax rise. “A tax on jobs when you want to promote more and better-paid employment is particularly stupid,” he said.

Tory former chancellors Lord Hammond, Lord Clarke and Lord Lamont have all criticised the plan to increase National Insurance, while former prime minister Sir John Major said it was “regressive”. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also signalled his party’s opposition to the proposal.