Liz Truss has vowed that no-one will be forced to sell their homes to pay for social care.
The Prime Minister’s commitment goes further than under Boris Johnson’s social care reforms when ministers had to concede some people may have to sell their homes.
Ms Truss is expected to spend billions scrapping the national insurance hike billed as a “health and social care social care levy” with a mini-budget on Friday.
She said her “first priority” on social care is properly funding it over the winter because there are “too many” people staying in hospital due to a lack of spaces.
Pressed if she was sticking to the 2019 Tory manifesto pledge that nobody would have to sell their homes to pay for care, Ms Truss responded: “I am.”
In September, the Government under her predecessor Mr Johnson announced that an £86,000 cap on care costs would be put in place from October 2023.
The Tory manifesto in 2019 said social care reforms must “guarantee that no-one needing care has to sell their home to pay for it”.
But last year Government minister Paul Scully failed to guarantee that pledge, saying: “There will be fewer people selling their houses and hopefully none.”
The charity Age UK said the system makes it “very difficult” for leaders to guarantee there is no possibility of someone needing to sell their home.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “The only sure-fire way of achieving this is to make care free at the point of use, like the NHS.
“At Age UK we would be thrilled if our new Prime Minister is proposing to do this, but she has not given any indication to date that this is what she wants to do.”
My biggest fear is that measures will again fall short because to avoid people having to sell their home, the Government would have to include all costs – including food and accommodation as opposed to just care costs – in their calculations of a new cap
Mike Padgham, Independent Care Group
Ms Abrahams said that, under the existing cap, the majority of people will need to sell their homes to fund their care.
She continued: “Aside from the fact people need to fund their own care up to the cap, even after they have reached it the cap does not cover all the bills that arise if you need a lot of care for a long time: for example, the cost of board and lodging in a care home is exempt and there are other bits of small print which make the cap less generous than it initially seems.
“The reality is most of older people don’t have access to anything like the kind of cash you have to spend to reach the cap – about eighty thousand pounds – without selling their home.”
She also said the cap was not nearly enough on its own, with a crisis in the social care workforce, largely around pay, and councils needing more money to reduce growing waiting lists for care and assessments.
The Independent Care Group, which represents care providers in York and north Yorkshire, gave a “guarded welcome” to the pledge.
Chairman Mike Padgham said it was heartening to see the PM talking about social care so early into the job, but noted that previous similar promises have “been shelved as other issues took priority”.
He said: “For us, the crisis facing the care of our oldest and most vulnerable citizens, should be a very high priority.
“The devil will be in the detail, and we wait to see exactly what is in the mini-budget and what replaces the health and social care levy if it is to be scrapped.
“My biggest fear is that measures will again fall short because to avoid people having to sell their home, the Government would have to include all costs – including food and accommodation as opposed to just care costs – in their calculations of a new cap.”
Sally Warren, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said: “If the Prime Minister is restating this commitment to a cap, this is welcome news, although she should also reverse the regressive change to the cap announced last year which meant people with low levels of wealth still face very high care costs and would potentially have to sell their home, while the wealthy would not.
“While keeping plans in place to tackle the longstanding issue of how to share the costs of care is important, it is by far not the only major challenge facing social care.
“The sector – which supports thousands of people and their families – needs significant additional funding to help recruit and retain more staff, deal with inflation, and to improve quality of care.”