Despite long being targeted by the Tories for votes, older people were today (May 18) arguably given the worst deal as prime minister Theresa May launched the party’s manifesto.
The triple lock, which ensures that state pensions rise by the same as average earnings, inflation, or 2.5 per cent, whichever is the highest, will now under new Tory plans be ditched in favour of a double lock.
Now, pensioners who are struggling could see the value of their already meagre state pension – the only thing that keeps millions above water – deplete substantially after the 2.5 per cent element of the pensions lock is abandoned.
Winter Fuel Payments will also be scrapped and replaced with a means-tested system for only the very poorest, leaving millions vulnerable to fuel poverty.
Critics say the Tories betrayed a profound lack of understanding about the problems with paying for elder care, after new proposals introduced today will now mean that people with more than £100,000 in assets – including savings, wealth and homes – will be forced to pay for their own care.
At present, those in England with assets greater than £23,250 must pay for their own care, but the value of their homes isn’t counted if they receive care in their homes.
The Tory party has said that the elderly won’t be forced to sell their homes until after they die to cover the costs of their care, but they can buy “equity release products” to extract value from their homes.
As blogger Thomas G. Clark points out, after the Tories have slashed social care budgets to the bone, they are now fleecing the elderly who paid for care in the first place with decades of tax and National Insurance contributions.
“The financial services industry are handed a lucrative new ‘equity release’ market to profit from,” Clarke predicts, “and the Tory press describe this kind of corporate equity extraction scheme as if it’s some kind of wonderful favour to the elderly that they’re being allowed to live in their own house as its equity is harvested away by the banks that screwed the economy in the first place!”
The plans also mean a previous commitment by the Tories to put a cap on how much families pay for their own care has now been scrapped.
Economist Andrew Dilnot, who reviewed social care for the coalition government in 2011, savaged the Tories’ plans, telling BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that the proposals fail to “tackle the biggest problem of all in social care, which is that at the moment people are faced with a position of no control”.
“It’s a bit like saying you can’t insure your house against burning down,” he explained. “If it does burn down then you are completely on your own, you have to pay for all of it until you are down to the last £100,000 of all of your assets and income, so it is just not answering the problem.”
National Pensioners Convention general secretary Jan Shortt likewise slammed the Tories’ proposals.
“The Conservatives’ manifesto pledge on social care offers the worst of all possible worlds for millions of older people and their families,” she said. “It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of a plan which bolts lots of bad policies together and still fails to tackle the real unfairness in the care system.
“Every single pensioner needing care at home will now be forced to pay, regardless of their income, because for the first time ever the value of their home will be taken into account, whilst the number of those in care homes that will benefit will be relatively small by comparison,” she added.
“What makes it worse is that to pay for this proposal, around 9m pensioners are going to lose their winter fuel allowance and all pensioners will see the value of their state pension fall once the triple lock is removed.
“This plan has completely failed to spread the risk and cost of social care across society as a whole, and in effect has left the burden on the shoulders of millions of older people and their families.”
Unite national officer for retired members Mike McCartney agreed.
“The Tories have said that people will not have to sell their homes to pay for care as if they’re saviours but extracting value from your home after you die amounts to the same thing – a highway robbery of pensioners who’ve worked hard their entire lives contributing to the system. It’s absolutely nonsense and it’s cruel.”
“The same can be said of their plans to end the triple lock and Winter Fuel Payments,” he added. “They’re giving with one hand and taking with the other. Winter Fuel Payments should not be means tested for the simple fact that they’ve already been paid for through National Insurance contributions and tax.”