Jeremy Hunt: Taxpayers must pay more to fund social care
Taxpayers should pay more to help fund social care, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
But Mr Hunt, who managed the country’s health budget between 2012 and 2018, warned against raising national insurance or income tax.
Instead the senior Conservative MP said he favoured a new “health and care premium”.
The government said it was “committed to bringing forward a long-term plan to reform the social care system”.
In a statement, it said proposals would be set out this year.
In their 2019 manifesto, the Conservatives pledged not to increase the rate of income tax, VAT or national insurance.
But newspaper reports have repeatedly suggested the government is looking at a potential rise in national insurance.
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“However, a rise in income tax feels very unconservative after the progress in reducing it during the 1980s, and national insurance disproportionately targets the young.”
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hunt, who now chairs the Commons health committee, said any tax rise to fund social care would be “a brave step for a Conservative government”.
While “uncomfortable” for his party, he said the issue could only be solved through the tax system.
“However, a rise in income tax feels very unconservative after the progress in reducing it during the 1980s, and national insurance disproportionately targets the young,” he said.
“Therefore, I personally favour a new health and care premium.
“Given that health spending is going to dwarf all other spending in the years ahead, such a premium would allow an honest debate at every election about the level of funding we want.
“It would be separate to a discussion about how much is spent in other departments and would also mean a fairer comparison about the tax burden with countries operating insurance-based systems.”
Mr Hunt was health secretary between 2012 and 2018 and also took on responsibility for social care policy for his final six months in the role, when his department was rebranded to cover both health and social care.
That joint department remains in place until this day, with Sajid Javid currently at the helm,
Boris Johnson has been under increasing pressure to set out his plan for social care reform.
Speaking on the steps of Downing Street on his first day as prime minister in 2019, he pledged to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”.
But that plan has yet to be published.
On top of long-term funding challenges, the social care sector has also faced extra costs because of the pandemic.
Councils, which provide social care, have seen their budgets cut over the last decade.
The squeeze on council funding in England means that people who pay for themselves are often propping up the care system.
In England, social care is generally not provided for free. Typically, only those with savings and assets worth less than £23,250 can get help from their council.
There is no overall limit on costs, meaning thousands every year end up selling their homes to pay.
Personal care, such as help with washing and dressing, is free in Scotland for those assessed by their local authority as needing it. Those in a home still have to contribute towards accommodation costs.
Some care costs are capped in Wales, and home care is free for the over-75s in Northern Ireland.