Pensioners ‘at bottom of priority list’ as Sunak poised to break another manifesto promise

Pensions triple-lock ‘right thing to do’ says Altmann

Sir Andrew Dilnot launched a scathing attack on potential moves by Rishi Sunak’s Government to push back a policy aimed at preventing pensioners from selling their homes to pay “catastrophic care costs”. Sir Andrew, who as chair of the Dilnot Commission on the Funding of Care and Support masterminded a cap on care costs 12 years ago, said he would be “astonished and very, very disgusted” if Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announces a cost-cutting delay in next week’s autumn statement.

“Once again pensioners who need social care and their families would know they are at the very, very bottom of the list of priorities.

“It’s happened before, it should not happen again. It’s not just about the cap on care home or nursing home costs, it’s also about the more generous threshold at which contributions become compulsory.”

Sir Andrew, now warden of Nuffield College, University of Oxford, was speaking exclusively to The Daily Express.

Our campaign Respect for the Elderly has consistently called for a fairer deal for the nation’s frail elderly, many of whom have had to sell their homes to pay for their care.

“The point of the care cap was to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” he said.

“Any move to delay would be a backward step hitting the neediest and their families. Ministers should be ashamed.

“To pull the policy now would be a tragedy and breaking a promise which people have relied on since last September when the policy was announced.

“To rip away that help and support now is very, very difficult to defend.

“A delay of two years would make no difference to the public finances and would be astonishing and I hope nothing like that is being planned.

“That it is being considered is incredible and a cause for dismay.”

Outraged campaigners have slammed the idea of a postponement

Outraged campaigners have slammed the idea of a postponement (Image: Getty)

There is mounting concern that Mr Hunt and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are to row back on the launch of the care cap set for September 2023 in a bid to plug an alleged £30bn black hole in the UK’s finances.

Treasury sources have not denied the speculation that the introduction will be delayed until 2025.

Delaying the £86,000 cap and the associated reform of making the means-test for care more generous for two years would save about £2bn.

If the government also delayed its accompanying drive to ensure councils paid providers a fair cost of care, it would save a further £1.2bn between 2023/25.

The policy was introduced by former PM Boris Johnson, who promised on the steps of Downing St to ease the social care crisis and stop people having to sell their home for care which costs a typical £800 a week depending on where you live.

The £86,000 cap would pay for around three years of care home fees and the policy also increased the means-tested threshold from £23,250 to £100,000.

Anyone with assets under £20,000 would not have to pay anything for their care up from £14, 250 currently.

Outraged campaigners have slammed the idea of a postponement.

Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices, said: “Such a move would be the triple whammy of broken manifesto promises to older people.

“The triple lock suspended last year, the scrapping of free TV licences for the over 75s and now delaying the last remaining element of Boris Johnson’s plan to fix social care.

“We will be going into the next election with a worse social care cris than 2019 with about two million older people not getting the social care support they need.”

Jan Shortt, director general of the National Pensioners Convention, added: “The only reason to delay the cap on care costs is to rethink a system that is grossly unfair to those less well off in favour of the wealthy.”

MP Nadine Dorries condemned any idea of a postponement.

The Tory MP, a close ally of Mr Johnson and the former culture secretary, said she was “very surprised” by the move and accused Mr Sunak of “kicking the social care cap down the road”.

She said the £1bn cost of implementing the policy next year was no more than a “rounding error” and therefore easily affordable.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “It’s true that the cap that is currently due for implementation next year is only a miserable shadow of the version Sir Andrew Dilnot recommended more than ten years ago, but it’s at least a start and something to build on for the future.

“If the Chancellor does announce next week that he is kicking it into the long grass, probably to disappear altogether, it will mean we have endured a lost decade or more where social care is concerned.

Nadine Dorries condemned any idea of a postponement

MP Nadine Dorries condemned any idea of a postponement (Image: Getty)

“Millions of older and disabled people have had to put up with inadequate services over that period and committed care staff have soldiered on despite miserly terms and conditions.

“Meanwhile, millions of unpaid carers of all ages have put their own interests aside and helped support their loved ones, often feeling they had no other choice.

“Whether the proposed cap is delayed or abandoned or is implemented as currently planned, it is no substitute for a proper process of reform that ensures everyone who has care needs receives a decent service, tailored to their individual needs.”

Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “News that the social care cap could be delayed will be greeted with horror by the many people currently wrestling with the huge costs of paying for care.

“Families would still have had to find the money to pay their loved one’s accommodation costs but the £86,000 cap on social care would have given some relief.

“A delay risks leaving people’s long-term planning in tatters and there will be huge concerns that this is a step towards this plan to deal with social care being put on the backburner.”

King’s Fund senior fellow for social care Simon Bottery said there was a “compelling case” for pressing ahead with the cap as it was critical to enabling people to plan for their older age, and would give confidence to insurance companies to design products to help people cover their £86,000 liability.

And, while acknowledging the scale also said it was “naïve to think that delaying or abandoning the cap will automatically mean the funding tap is turned on for social care in other areas”.

Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s Society raised concerns about the impact of the delay on people with dementia, for whom the reforms would reduce the risks of facing catastrophic care costs.

“Government must not roll back on the care cap,” said the charity’s associate director of advocacy and system change, Mark MacDonald.

“This social care reform was a crucial first step to tackle catastrophic care costs, limiting the amount people had to pay towards their care.

“People with dementia are the biggest users of social care – at least 70 percent of care home users have dementia – and this delay would be a damaging blow at a time when many of them will be struggling with bills and need action on the cost of care too.”

There was also another blow for pensioners when analysis of Government figures showed they were taking a 15.4 percent direct tax hit on their income.

This amounts to more than £57.22bn a year in direct taxes, according to pension specialists iSIPP.

Rishi Sunak on a visit to Blackpool College on Thursday

Rishi Sunak on a visit to Blackpool College on Thursday (Image: Getty)

Public wants triple lock pledge to stay

Public support over the pensions triple lock is soaring with three-quarters of adults calling for Rishi Sunak to keep it, new research shows, writes Martyn Brown, Daily Express Deputy Political Editor.

With just six days to go until the Autumn Statement, polling commissioned by Age UK found that the equivalent of 40 million people want the Tory manifesto pledge to stay.

Unsurprisingly, 91 percent of over-60s want the commitment to stay in place.

The findings add further weight to the Daily Express Crusade calling for Mr Sunak to reinstate the triple lock, which was temporarily suspended last year.

Our petition, organised with campaign group Silver Voices, has been backed by almost 300,000 people and championed by MPs and campaigners.

The polling also found that a third of older people (35 percent of over-60s) – said they would be less likely to vote Conservative in a general election if the Government breaks its manifesto commitment on the triple lock.

Other results showed that 73 percent of adults agreed with Age UK’s call for benefits to be uprated in line with prices from next April.

Unless this happens, the Charity is warning that millions of the poorest pensioners, children and families will be plunged below the breadline, and forced into deep hardship.

The Charity said it is deeply concerned about the impact on older people of a decision to water down or abandon the triple lock because this would deliver a devastating real terms cut to the State Pension at a time when the prices of everyday items are rising quickly.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “At Age UK we are hearing some deeply concerning stories from older people about the drastic measures they are taking to save money – for example, preparing coffee with hot water from the tap so they don’t have to boil a kettle, and regularly eating a handful of biscuits rather than preparing a proper meal. Our biggest worry is that as the weeks go by and prices for everyday items continue to rise, growing numbers of older people will resort to strategies like these, putting their health and well-being at risk.

“If it’s this bad for some older people now, how will it be for them in January, or February, when our weather is usually at its worst, Christmas is over and there is nothing to look forward to?

“One of the reasons why we think it is so important that the Chancellor restores the triple lock is that it would provide older people with some ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ in the spring, giving them the confidence, we hope, to keep their heating on through the winter.”

She added: “We fervently hope that at the Autumn Statement the Chancellor chooses to do the right thing and acts to protect older people on low incomes. If he does, he will clearly have the vast majority of the public cheering him on.”

Help save the triple lock

The Daily  Express and Silver Voices have launched an online petition to show the Government the importance of the pension triple lock to older people.

More than 293,000 people have already signed it and included comments about how crucial the guarantee of a decent increase in payments is.

Sign our petition at https://www.change.org/triple-lock-crusade

Email and tell us why the triple lock is so important to you at: news.desk@express.co.uk

‘This just isn’t fair’

Pam Pritchard was paying £60,000-a-year to fund her dementia-stricken mother’s care, writes Giles Sheldrick, Daily Express Chief Reporter.

Widowed former bookkeeper Sheila Rawdon, 93, was diagnosed with mixed dementia  in 2012 but initially lived at home with the help of carers.

She died in August 2020 alone in the grip of Covid, a week before her birthday.

Sheila went into her first home in 2013 but was removed by her family after two years amid concerns about the facility’s ability to look after her. Fees at her last home – which was shut to visitors during the pandemic – topped £5,000 a month.

Retired Pam, 63, from Titchfield, Hampshire, took out a £140,000 care annuity in 2014 which paid out £25,000 a year.

But care home fees were so astronomically expensive she used her mother’s pensions and proceeds from the £360,000 sale of her house to meet rocketing costs.

She said: “Mum paid the price of growing old. All their generation wanted to do was work hard, save and pass on something to their families. I am not sitting here thinking my money has disappeared. I am sitting here thinking this just isn’t fair.

“Mum’s health was very good, it’s just her mind that was suffering. She had no memory from one minute to the next. A lot of people think people with dementia can remember things from the 1930s with absolute clarity yet forget what they did last week. With mum, she couldn’t remember anything.”

Sheila and her husband Stan married in 1953 and celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary in 2003. He died in 2008.

Mother-of-two Pam added: “If we hadn’t sold mum’s house she would have run out of money, and we simply wouldn’t have been able to afford to pay for her care.

“The Government should be helping in lots of different ways: they should be helping with finances, because dementia is a medical disease – just like cancer – but the system is just not right or fair. There also needs to be proper regulation and proper training, with carers paid more than the minimum wage.

“The system needs wholesale reform because it’s nothing short of an injustice. It irritates me and mystifies me. We got no advice or support whatsoever and were left to navigate a system that just didn’t work.”

The Chancellor offered little clue of what measures he was planning

The Chancellor offered little clue of what measures he was planning (Image: PA)

Chancellor: Autumn budget among ‘biggest responsibilities’ of political career

Jeremy Hunt has called the upcoming autumn statement one of the “biggest responsibilities” of his political career, amid intense speculation about what his budget will contain, writes Dominic McGrath.

Writing in his local paper, the Chancellor offered little clue of what measures he was planning but warned his constituents of the need to “put our national finances back on an even keel”.

Tax rises and tough spending cuts are expected in the budget, which will come as Rishi Sunak and his Chancellor attempt to restore confidence in the UK economy after Liz Truss’s administration.

The South West Surrey MP apologised to readers of the Farnham Herald for the break in his weekly column, but assured them he had been “heads down, including over Saturday and Sunday, preparing the Autumn Statement with the prime minister”.

“It is an extremely difficult challenge because after Covid, many people have got used to the state being able to step in with limitless resources to fix big problems.

“But in the end, as every family and business knows, you have to find a way to pay for things,” he wrote.

Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt are considering imposing up to £60 billion in tax rises and spending cuts in the autumn budget on November 17, in what will prove a major test for the new Tory administration.

Downing Street is facing fresh calls not to axe the scheduled social care cap as a way of avoiding deeper cuts elsewhere.

The Prime Minister was reviewing whether to delay the plans by two years to 2025, Whitehall officials confirmed on Thursday, amid fears it could be put off indefinitely.

The potential move has alarmed charities, with The Alzheimer’s Society warning ministers they “must not roll back on the care cap”, which it described as a “crucial first step to tackle catastrophic care costs”.

Mr Hunt was tight-lipped in his column about any of the rumours and reports about his budget measures but told readers: “These are tough times for people everywhere.

“But we are a resilient, tough and resourceful country and have seen off even greater challenges many times before.”

He also addressed the Bank of England’s decision to hike interest rates from 2.25 percent to 3 percent, in its biggest single rise for 33 years.

“It is, of course, very challenging that base rates have just increased again but it is vitally important the Bank of England continues to do its job to restore the stability that comes with low inflation,” Mr Hunt said.

The Chancellor, twice defeated in Tory leadership contests, was elevated to one of the most powerful jobs in the country in the dying days of Ms Truss’s premiership before being kept on by Mr Sunak.

Signing off his column, he turned his attention to the “brilliant” local businesses in his locality.

“Delivering the Autumn Statement will be perhaps one of the biggest responsibilities I have undertaken in public life and I will be thinking hard how to help every single one of them,” he said.

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Comment by Stephen Lowe – Retirement Specialist Just Group.

This rumoured delay would be a catastrophic failure to deliver on much-needed reforms which were so close and yet now seem so far away and will be a hammer below for families up and down the country.

It will plunge millions of older, more vulnerable people in our country into chaos and confusion as they wait for concrete action on social care before making their own plans.

You can’t expect people to plan for later life care when the goalposts keep moving. It is only by sticking to the announced plan and communicating the policy details that people will have confidence to start putting in place arrangements.

Without planning, decisions must be made at the point of need when emotions are often running high, choices are more limited and family members may not agree on the best course of action.

Planning for care gives people more choice of when and where they receive care and the standard of care obtained. It also means less stress at the point of going into a care home which can be an emotionally charged time for both the resident and their family.

Our research for the 2022 Just Group Care Report – the longest-running research series of its kind tracking public attitudes to social care – found nearly six in 10 (59 percent) over 75s (equivalent to nearly three million people) were delaying making their own financial plans for any residential care they may need until government policy is successfully implemented.

Those who have had no choice but to put care in place for loved ones are now dealing with the ticking meter of care fees. The vast majority of people (88 percent) who are or have helped somebody arrange care are shocked at how expensive it is, while more than two-thirds (69 percent) were surprised by how little financial support the state provides and how much they are expected to contribute.

If one thing is clear from the last two decades of dither and delay, it’s that there’s never a good time to fix social care. It’s time the government grasped this simple truth and got on with delivering the reform it promised in its General Election manifesto.