Social care

Revealed: how the NHS waiting list will hit 9.2 million

Before the pandemic hit, NHS England waiting lists were at a record high of 4.4 million. Three lockdowns later, they’ve risen to six million: an unacceptable figure for a Tory government which has spent years trying to rebrand itself as the ‘party of the NHS’. Boris Johnson’s decision to break his manifesto pledge and raise taxes was directly linked to the idea that the money would first be funnelled into the health service to fix the backlog. So can he now deliver for patients? When Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced his ‘elective recovery plan’ in the House of Commons on Tuesday, he said that the waiting list would start shrinking

Letters: Unfair care costs will turn the red wall blue

Take care Sir: Your editorial (‘Counting the costs’, 8 January) makes valid points regarding the funding of social care. The good people of the north in the red-wall seats will be rightly appalled. A couple who have worked hard and made their own way onto the property ladder must wonder what they have voted for. They sit on a property worth £100,000 to £200,000. If they need a care home, they will see their children’s legacy disappear into the hole of care costs while knowing that they are subsidising the same care costs of millionaires. This is deeply unfair and, I daresay, anti-Conservative. There should be no care costs on

Boris’s social care plans are hollow

Boris Johnson promised to ‘fix social care once and for all’ as he became Prime Minister on the steps of No. 10. On the basis of today’s social care white paper, he doesn’t think it’s particularly badly broken. Care minister Gillian Keegan launched the document in the Commons this afternoon, telling MPs that while this set out a 10-year ‘vision’, ‘today’s white paper is an important step on our journey to giving more people the dignified care that we want for our loved ones’. Those words — ‘important step’ — suggest that ministers don’t think this is the sum total of their proposals to fix social care, which is just

The confusion at the heart of social care

Boris Johnson’s majority plunged to just 26 last night, following a rebellion over controversial changes to social care plans. Means-tested, state-funded payments will no longer count towards the £86,000 limit on the amount people will have to pay for their care. Those with initial assets worth less than £186,000, and who have received such help, could be worse off as a consequence. Critics have pointed out that this is likely to disproportionately affect residents in the North or the Midlands because of differential house prices. Johnson’s government isn’t the first to tie itself in knots over the issue of social care funding. Successive administrations have failed to bring about reform

Frustration grows with Boris, but the social care cap passes

MPs have approved the government’s social care cap in the Commons. But the vote doing so was narrow, and there seem to have been a lot of Conservative MPs either abstaining (which would be a rebellion against a three-line whip) or absent. Some will have been unwell, and ‘slipped’, as it is known, for other reasons. But some may have agreed with the whips that their car was due to break down or a tooth due to need emergency dental work, thus preventing them from voting against this controversial amendment. Others, like Matt Hancock, gave such rousing speeches in its favour that casual observers might have been forgiven for thinking

Why the NHS needs more bureaucrats

If the NHS’s cheerleaders and detractors can agree on one thing, it’s this: we need fewer backroom staff. If the health service’s doctors, nurses and cleaners are heroes, the pen-pushers, middle-men and legions of drab men in drab suits are sucking the vital lifeblood out of the NHS, while droning on about synergies in management. All this while claiming a salary that could have paid for another two nurses. This debate has re-emerged after it was reported that almost half of all NHS staff are managers, administrators or unqualified assistants. Helen Whately, the care minister, spoke for many when she said she feels ‘strongly that the money we put into the NHS needs to

Assetocracy: the inversion of the welfare state

To understand how the Tories ended up in such a muddle about who they are and what they stand for, take a walk down any of the nicer streets in Boris Johnson’s constituency. North Hillingdon is as idyllic now as it was a generation ago: spacious houses, with large drives, built before the war. The houses were, once, more or less affordable. One property on Parkway, for example, was bought for £175,000 just over 20 years ago. It’s now valued at £1 million. And what’s true in Hillingdon is true of the rest of the country too. The asset boom that started at the turn of the century has transformed

Portrait of the week: Tax rises, Tube gets busier and Taliban names its government

Home Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, announced a new tax in the Commons branded a ‘health and social care levy’. It would increase National Insurance paid by employees and employers by 1.25 percentage points from April 2022. A year later it would become a separate tax that even pensioners still earning would have to pay. Share dividends would also see an extra 1.25 per cent tax rate. Of the £12 billion a year raised, only £1.8 billion would go to social care for the next three years. Some of the tax would go to meet the increased tax bill of the NHS as an employer paying the levy. From October

James Forsyth

Boris’s premiership is entering a dangerous new phase

The announcement of a tax increase for both workers and employers to fund more spending on health and social care is Boris Johnson’s biggest gamble since he won the 2019 general election. He is betting that, under the cover of Covid, he can get away with breaking his manifesto commitment not to raise personal taxes. Voters can be unforgiving of politicians who break their promises. Johnson is aware of this danger. Earlier in the crisis, when the Treasury pushed to drop the pensions triple lock — which ensures that the state pension goes up by inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest — because the Covid crisis was

Time to ditch the pension triple-lock for good

Perhaps it’s finally dawned on the government that they have an intergenerational inequality problem on their hands. The decision to suspend the pension triple-lock for one year to avoid an 8 per cent increase to the state pension would suggest so. Asset wealth is already excessively concentrated in the over-55s. To even this spendthrift government, a massive bump in pensions while the rest of the economy languishes is a step too far. But that’s exactly what happens every year anyway under the triple-lock. The policy means that even when the rest of the economy stagnates, pensioners receive a boost. It is a feature of the system, not a bug, which came into place

James Forsyth

PMQs: Starmer’s caution lets Boris off again

Today was the first PMQs clash between Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer in a packed Commons chamber. Starmer tried to pin down Johnson on whether he could guarantee that no one would have to pay their home to fund their care. Johnson dodged the question. But Starmer was limited by the fact that Labour can’t say how it would raise funds for the NHS backlog and social care, allowing Johnson to claim that Labour has no plan. Starmer is a naturally cautious politician, but his caution is leaving the field clear for Johnson on social care. Things would have been more difficult for the Prime Minister today if Labour was explicitly

The red herring at the heart of Boris’s tax hike

One of the most dubious and meaningless parts of today’s health and social care plan is the pledge that the new tax will be a ‘legally hypothecated levy’ – ring-fenced so that the money raised can only go to health and social care services.  It’s dubious in the same way that the Tory manifesto pledge not to raise taxes turned out not to be worth the paper it was printed on. And it’s meaningless because a government that wants to unlink the tax could just pass a law doing that – and no legal ring-fence can stop it. It’s also worth remembering that the ring-fence around health and social care is

No, Britain isn’t a gerontocracy

Outrage over the government’s National Insurance hike is wholly justified. It is absurd to have the working-age population foot the bill for social care while those over state pension age with substantial incomes and assets don’t contribute. It is regressive, reneges on a 2019 manifesto pledge and is nothing more than a sticking plaster to heal the festering wound that is our social care system. As for employer NI, this is a crude payroll tax that discourages employment at the margin and which will translate into lower wages down the line. But the insistence by inter-generational warriors that we increasingly live in a gerontocracy, where the needs of the young

Robert Peston

Why Johnson’s tax gamble will pay off

Boris Johnson’s announcement today, promising he will fix the £15 billion hole in health and social care, may well be the decision that determines his and his party’s fate at the next election — and, by implication, Keir Starmer’s reaction will also determine his destiny.  Probably the most important point is that after the 18 months we’ve had, most people would argue that putting the NHS and care for the elderly and vulnerable on a stable financial footing should be the Prime Minister’s number one priority.  Johnson’s critics would say he shouldn’t break two important manifesto pledges to pay for it Johnson’s critics would say he shouldn’t break two important

Katy Balls

Can Johnson win round his social care critics?

Is Boris Johnson’s social care plan about to sail through the House of Commons? Today the Prime Minister will unveil the details of the package he is proposing. After putting his plans to the cabinet, it will be set out in the Commons before a 5 p.m. press conference where Johnson will appear alongside Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid. There are rumours afoot that No. 10 then may opt for a vote in the Commons this week at short notice — in a bid to push the plans through before the rebels have time to get organised. However, slightly raining on Johnson’s parade is the fact that cabinet ministers have so far

Why are Boris’s tax rises so popular?

It is a curious thing to exclude a vast group of generally quite well-heeled voters from funding a policy innovation that they will benefit from more than any other group. One might almost call it blatant favouritism. But Boris Johnson’s plan to pay for a big increase in resources going into social care long-term and the NHS short-term amounts to just that. By opting for a National Insurance increase to fund his proposals, the PM is ensuring that nobody over the state pension age of 66 will have to put their hands in their pockets. Neither will the extra financial burden fall on so-called ‘unearned’ income such as dividends on

How will Boris Johnson sell his social care tax rise?

Boris Johnson is on the brink of raising taxes to fund a health and care spending package two decades after Tony Blair embarked on his own NHS tax rises. There are striking differences in their approaches though, when it comes to preparing the ground for this rare event in British politics.  It is not yet apparent what Boris Johnson’s primary objective for social care is Blair’s 2002 tax rise came at the end of a long, high-profile process that sought to put the long-term future of the health service at the centre of a national discussion. By contrast there has been little to no debate ahead of Boris Johnson’s health

Boris could pay a big price for his flawed social care shake-up

Boris Johnson pledged to ‘fix the crisis in social care’ over two years ago. Next week, the Prime Minister is set to announce his plan to do just that. In doing so, he is also expected to opt for a major break from his manifesto pledge not to raise key taxes. So what is Boris’s solution, and will it work? The Prime Minister remains wedded to the 2011 Dilnot reforms to answer today’s problems. This includes bringing in a cap on the cost one would be required to pay for their social care. At least a 1p tax hike on National Insurance is also expected, to raise around £6bn. This pot of

The government’s social care reform plans don’t add up

As Covid-19 swept through care homes in the spring of last year, the public watched on with horror and helplessness. About a third of all Covid deaths in England took place among residents of these homes. It was worse overseas. In Spain, care home residents accounted for 40 per cent of Covid deaths last year. In the Netherlands and Sweden, it was around 50 per cent. In Canada, almost 60 per cent. But this doesn’t provide much comfort. Britain may belong to a large club of countries that got their pandemic policy wrong — but the results, regardless, were deadly. The huge holes in Britain’s social care system have been