As Jeremy Corbyn’s informal social media feed revealed today, Britain’s biggest pensioners’ organisation, the NPC (National Pensioners Convention) has called the Tory manifesto (or ‘my manifesto’, as Theresa May kept calling it) a “Frankenstein’s monster” of bolted-together bad policies that will damage pensioners and place an unfair burden on their families:
The NPC’s General Secretary was damning in her assessment:
The Conservative’s manifesto pledge on social care offers the worst of all possible worlds for millions of older people and their families.
You can read her full press statement here.
However, the SKWAWKBOX wanted to dig into the details of the matter for its readers and spoke at length this afternoon with NPC spokesman Neil Duncan-Jordan, who gave an astonishingly frank interview on the facts and impact of the Tories’ plans for social care if they are re-elected next month. Here is the discussion in full:
SKWAWKBOX: Neil, thanks for making time to talk to the SKWAWKBOX. Jan Shortt called the Tories’ manifesto plans for social care a ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ of a plan. What does that mean exactly?
NDJ: The plans are so disjointed that they seem to be cobbled together from a variety of unrelated sources. But they’re not things that anyone was talking about or asking for, so we’re not sure where they’ve dug up the parts for this monstrosity!
We completely understand why Andrew Dilnot is livid about the announced measures and doesn’t trust the government. He did all the work for the coalition government, then as soon as soon as it suited them they put it all aside and didn’t implement any of his measures.
What the Tories have come up with today is a real mixture of measures that will leave more pensioners worse off as a result of their plans. Now that’s interesting as it’s a departure from their usual policies that protect pensioners because they vote.
S: How will it leave pensioners worse off?
N: In a number of ways. Over 500,000 people receive care at home at the moment. Under the current system, the value of their property is not taken into account, just their income and savings, but under the new Tory plan the property value will count too.
S: What kind of scale of impact will we see on older people needing care at home?
N: Anyone who owns a property and needs care WILL pay.
Under the old system, most people receiving care at home would have received either help from their local council or would have had to make part-payment.
Now everyone who owns a property will pay in full. That’s a huge change and it will affect a significant proport of those 500,000 people – at least half, so a minimum of 250,000 older people.
Those in residential care – as long they don’t have a partner when they go into care – they may gain a little. Under the current plan, you pay until you’re down to the last £23,250 of the value of your house, whereas under the new one, if the Tories get back into government they’ll save £100,000 of the value of their empty property – assuming the Conservatives stick to their promise, which they didn’t do when they said they would increase the threshold from £23,250 to £75,000.
But that only helps single people. If you’re married and your husband or wife is still living in the property the house was never taken into account in the calculation anyway.
S: But the Daily Mail is claiming that nobody will have to sell their house under the Tories’ plans?
N: That’s very misleading. A single person would have had to sell their house under the old system but a married person wouldn’t. Saying you won’t have to sell under the new plans is not true. The Tories are only guaranteeing £100,000 – but most houses are worth more than that these days, so what happens to the balance? You’ve still got to access it.
Basically, it’s forcing people into equity release – either provided by the State, if the cost can be deferred, or else by private firms for profit.
Look, the Conservatives’ measure is not dissimilar to the so-called death tax that Labour proposed in 2015.
Labour were talking about a 15% death duty to pay for social care and the Tories rubbished the idea. But Theresa May’s new plan will take all but £100,000. So if your house is worth, say, £300,000, you’ll have to pay £200,000 for your care.
For the vast majority of people, they’ll be looking at paying far more than Labour’s 2015 plan, given the price of a house nowadays.
S: The Daily Express has called May’s plan ‘fairer’. What would the NPC say about that?
I don’t think pensioners and their families will take that view. There are about a million people in care or receiving care at home at the moment, plus another two million who should be getting care but aren’t, because of cuts. That’s around three million people who are likely to be affected by this plan if it’s put into action.
That’s a huge number of people who vote, so the Tories are coming at this from a very unusual angle, hitting people at home extremely hard and for those in care it’s heavier than it might have been – and they’ll have to pay at a higher value than previously.
On top of that it gets even worse. The Tories are going to scrap the pensions triple-lock, making all pensioners suffer – and the changes to the winter fuel allowance will affect around 9 million pensioners. The vast majority are going to lose it – only those on the means-tested pension credit will continue to receive it.
There are millions of pensioners who don’t qualify for pension credit who are living on only £10-15,000 a year. They will lose too – this is a very blunt instrument, yes it will affect the tiny minority of rich pensioners but it will also hit hard those who are very nearly the poorest.
S: So what’s going on? Pensioners are the voters the Tories normally rely on!
N: It is very unusual as most pensioners did vote Tory in the last General Election. The Conservatives are taking a very big risk by assuming they will vote Conservative anyway – unless they think most people simply won’t know about it, or won’t understand what is a very complex topic.
S: You think it’s a genuine risk?
N: Absolutely. The impact of this on pensioners is going to be enormous. Even people who need just a single hour of very modest care a day will see a bill of over £7,000 a year because of this plan – and a lot of people need a lot more than an hour a day.
If pensioners understand it, will affect their voting intention.
Pensioners do switch their vote. In 1997 the majority of pensioners voted Labour. In 2015 most voted Tory.
In the referendum, most in the 55-75 age-range voted leave, but among the over-75s most voted remain. Pensioners are not a homogenous group and they do change their vote.
S: The SKWAWKBOX’s social media feeds do sometimes see comments from younger people saying, “Why have pensioners supported Tories? It will serve them right if they get hit hard now”. What would you say to those people?
N: I can’t answer that for all pensioners, but as an organisation we’ve done a lot of work to unite all generations. Older people are deeply concerned about the way their children and grandchildren have been affected by government cuts. You won’t help younger people by hurting pensioners. We have to find a way to raise everyone up to the same level, not push everyone down to a lower one.
Social care is only area in which we’re forced into this terrible lottery that can affect any family at any time. An older person might be fit and strong now, but you’re only a stroke, heart-attack or fall away from needing serious levels of care – and Theresa May’s plans would hit you immediately.
Whether out of hubris or desperation, it looks like the Tories have taken a reckless gamble in taking for granted that older people will still vote for them after years of pain for their children and grandchildren, while the Conservatives openly plan measures that will have a massive, negative impact on the lives of old people and what they can leave for their children.
It’s up to all of us to make sure they lose that reckless gamble. Get this information under the noses of your older friends, relatives, neighbours – especially any who usually vote Tory. Print it out for them if necessary, or point them to this article if they’re internet-savvy.
If enough older people read, hear and understand this information, the Tories will lose.
And if they’re watching online, make sure they watch this excellent video, too: