David Lipsey on the Coalition’s sneaky betrayal of thousands of elderly people
The Care and Support (Deferred Payment) Regulations 2014 may not seem like the most exciting business before the House today, when we are also debating important judicial issues. Nevertheless I have tabled two resolutions – one a ‘regret’, the other ‘fatal’ – against the regulations, and I hope many in the House of Lords are there to support the case being made.
It was a full year ago, during the passage of the Care Act, that Peers uncovered the government plot to deprive many thousands of old people benefiting from its new scheme to stop those very same people having to sell their homes.
Following the report of the Dilnot Commission on care, the government proposed a universal scheme to protect old people against having to sell up. This was supposed to allow them to borrow from councils against the value of their homes, with the loan repayable when they died. Ministers however, did a u-turn.
Now, these new regulations going before Parliament will mean that only those with less than £23,250 in non-housing assets would be eligible for the scheme, debarring way over half of those who could have benefitted from the change. 30,000 out of 55,000 people, according to the government’s own figures.
When Peers highlighted the government’s subterfuge, Ministers ran into heavy press criticism, in particular from normally supportive newspapers like The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. So the government prepared to back down, with Health Minister Earl Howe informing the House that "a range of figures" would be considered, instead of the £23,250. On that basis, an Opposition amendment was withdrawn. But the regulations being debate this evening reinstate the original cap.
It is outrageous behaviour, even by the standards of the Coalition. First, they ratted on their promise that no-one would have to sell their home. Now, they are re-ratting on a promise made to Parliament to look making sure fewer people would be barred from the scheme. Those who lose out will have worked hard and saved hard through their lives to accumulate a modest nest egg. (And as some will be Conservative voters now flirting with UKIP, I can’t help thinking that Tory Ministers are shooting themselves in their electoral foot.)
The draft regulations have a further flaw. They want the deferred payment scheme to come in next April, whereas the rest of the post-Dilnot package will not take effect until a year later. This will cause chaos in local authorities, as well as confusion amongst older people and their advisers who had a hard enough task understanding the new arrangements anyway.
Why are they doing this? To get the regulations in place before the general election of course – hopeful, no doubt, of buying a few votes. I trust however, that bad government will also turn out to be bad politics.
Lord David Lipsey is a backbench Labour Peer. He tweets @LordLipsey
Published 9th December 2014