These many people are forced to sell houses to buy social services


There is one thing you cannot take away from Boris Johnson. He came up with some sort of plan to explain how the nation should pay for social care.

It might be a good plan or a bad plan, but he still did more than the prime ministers who came before him – or the Labor opposition. Labor currently says it opposes the government’s plan to increase national insurance by 1.25%, raising £ 36bn over three years, but cannot tell us what it would do in place. Instead, he says he’s working on an alternative that would allow fundraising more equitably – by charging “those who can afford it” more – but we have to wait to find out what that means in the future. practice.

It is widely accepted that the current system must change. People in need of long-term social care can face huge bills, and at the moment anyone with assets of £ 23,250 or more has to pay the full cost themselves.

Read more: Thousands of people in West Midlands affected by cut to national insurance

If you are a homeowner and are cared for in a residential setting (i.e. in a care home, instead of staying in your own home), the value of your property is included as active. So you face huge fees even if you don’t have a lot of money in the bank. The only solution, for many people, is to sell their home.

In the area covered by the West Midlands Combined Authority, including Birmingham, Sandwell, Walsall, Dudley, Coventry, Solihull and Wolverhampton, we know that at least 175 people agreed to sell their homes during the 12 month period of 2019 to 2020. These are the most recent figures available, and they refer to people signing “deferred payment agreements” with their local council.

In some cases, this means that the council lends them the money to pay for the care and is reimbursed after their house is sold, possibly after their death.

In others, the process of selling the house begins immediately, but the board grants a short-term loan to pay for the care until the sale is complete.

These figures come from the NHS. Others have probably sold their property to pay for care without signing a deferred payment agreement, but the number is unknown.

You could argue that wealthy people should pay for their own treatment (leaving aside the question of whether a family home counts as wealth). But generally in this country we do not accept this argument.

Very few people would say that a person with cancer should be forced to sell their house to pay for the NHS treatment, or even let the health service sell for them after they die, rather than leaving it to their own. children (we could debate the rights or wrongs of inheritance, but not whether people should be treated differently when sick). Why should dementia be any different?

None of us can tell if we will be unlucky enough to develop chronic disease as we age. The principle behind calls for reform of social care financing is that we should all share the risk, or at least share it much more than we currently do.

Under Boris Johnson’s plans, anyone with assets up to £ 100,000 will have their care funded at least in part by the government. And no one will ever pay more than £ 86,000 for care in their lifetime. This means that fewer people will have to give up their homes and savings.

The problem, of course, is that someone has to pay. Boris Johnson’s decision to increase national insurance is controversial as it is a tax imposed specifically on working people and roughly by definition they tend to be younger than those in need of care social.

In addition, national insurance is levied only on earned income, unlike income tax. For example, if you are a homeowner, you do not pay national insurance on rental income. If you are lucky enough to have a very generous private pension (some people have pensions that pay them more than the average salary) then you are not paying national insurance, although you are liable for income tax. .

The government has tried to soften the pill a bit. The 1.25% levy will be levied on the wages received by people over retirement age who continue to work, even if they are currently exempt from the normal national insurance contribution.

It also increases the dividend tax by 1.25%. This is a tax usually paid by the richest (you have to earn more than £ 2,000 in a year from dividends to be liable, so a middle-income person who occasionally goes public is unlikely to be affected).

These measures aim to increase the feeling of fairness. Still, Mr Johnson is vulnerable to claims he is forcing working-age people to pay the bills of older people, even if those older people are richer.

While the NHS provides health care, local councils are responsible for social care. Paulette Hamilton, Birmingham City Council member for health and social services, said: “Social care in this country is in dire straits and this should have been resolved long ago. However, using a tax that will disproportionately hit the young and the lowest paid is unfair, especially by not asking the older and higher income brackets to pay their share, even if they will benefit the most.

“It also doesn’t deal with how the sector will be run and whether there will be appropriate and decent pay for those working in care. If the government were really radical, it could have considered completely restarting a service that is in urgent need of change. “

In Mr Johnson’s favor, there seems to be a widespread view among voters that national insurance is a tax that pays, and should pay, for health and similar services. Polls suggest that this is a relatively popular tax because people think they are getting something valuable in return.

And, as noted, he is also fortunate that his political opponents currently have no alternative proposals to put forward, beyond a vague promise to fund care in a better and fairer way.

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