Theresa May has come under fire for proposals to introduce a so-called Dementia Tax.
Currently, elderly people receiving at-home care have to pay if they have savings of more than £23,250. But importantly, this figure does not include the value of their home.
Under Conservative plans, the amount of protected money would be increased to £100,000. But the figure would include the price of their house.
That means some people would be forced to sell their house to pay bills (although the sale can be deferred until after their death). Only £100,000 would be protected to pass on as inheritance.
Importantly though, a recommendation in a report by Sir Andrew Dilnot in 2011 that costs should be capped was not included in the manifesto.
After heavy criticism, Theresa May made a speech on Monday to “clarify any doubts” about the policy. She said a cost cap would be introduced after all – but didn’t specify how much the cap would be.
We gave her Dementia Tax speech the FactCheck treatment. We found six key claims that Theresa May made which were seriously misleading.
1. ‘Nothing has changed’
The prime minister was at pains to stress she was not U-turning on the care policy. “We have not changed the principles of the policy that we set out in our manifesto,” she said. But this seems patently untrue.
In her speech, May announced an “absolute limit” on the amount people have to pay for the cost of care. But there had been absolutely no mention of this in her manifesto.
On the contrary, the manifesto heavily implied there was not going to be any limit on the cost of care. It said that some savings would be protected “no matter how large the cost of care turns out to be”.
Theresa May might claim her announcement was a mere clarification, but it marks a huge policy shift. In real life, the difference between these two things is massive.
2. ‘The plans that we set out were very clear in the manifesto’
Even if Theresa May really always did intend to introduce a cap on care costs, this was certainly not made clear. In fact, even her own senior ministers seemingly had no idea.
Just a week ago, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt flatly ruled it out, explaining: “We don’t think it’s fair.”!
He said: “We couldn’t be being clearer: not only are we dropping it [the cap], but we are dropping it ahead of a general election, and we’re being completely explicit in our manifesto that we’re dropping it.”
And the very day before May’s U-turn, the work and pensions secretary Damian Green explicitly ruled out looking at the policy again.
3. The manifesto included ‘measures to make sure nobody has to sell the family home to pay for care’
This is not an outright lie, but is certainly highly misleading.
No one is claiming that the manifesto policy would force elderly people to sell their houses while they are still living there. Rather, the concern is that people receiving at-home care would have to defer care payments until after they die, with the bill deduced from their estate. In some cases this would mean the house would need to be sold after death, with only £100,000 protected for inheritance.
So May is only correct in the sense that the house would not need to be sold while the owner is still alive. But after death, that protection does not apply.
4. ‘Nobody is going to have to pay for their care – while they are alive’
This was probably just a slip of the tongue (May said it while answering questions from journalists). But it is, of course, completely wrong.
Even now that the Conservatives have said they will include a pay cap, it’s just that – a cap. Many elderly people and their families will still have to fork out thousands of pounds for their care. The Conservatives have yet to clarify what the cap will be, so we currently have no idea how much families will have to pay.
5. Jeremy Corbyn has been making ‘fake claims’ about the Dementia Tax
When the policy was first announced, Corbyn’s criticisms suggested he had misunderstood it. He claimed the Tories wanted a “£100,000 cap on social care”, when in reality this figure was the threshold for total assets before charges kick in.
Corbyn’s error was corrected and all of his criticisms since appear to have been accurate, based on reasonable assumptions from the manifesto. FactCheck has not been able to review every word uttered by the Labour leader, but the points we have checked seem accurate or justifiable.
For instance, Corbyn claimed the move would make people pay for social care “with their homes”. As we mentioned before, elderly people can defer the sale of their homes until after death, but Corbyn is right to say the proposals could mean at-home care costs could be paid for retrospectively by selling the house.
6. Dementia Tax is a term ‘spread by the Labour Party to scare people’
The term has been around for years, and has been used by a wide range of commentators, politicians, journalists and experts.
Previously, it has referred simply to the way care is categorised: sufferers of many other illnesses require hospital treatment, which comes free on the NHS, but dementia sufferers are more likely to need at-home care, which is means-tested. It could be argued that using the term specifically to describe the new Conservative policy is just an obvious continuation of this.
It’s true that the Labour party have used the term to criticise Theresa May. The Conservatives have actually used those words too (albeit in inverted commas) to counter the criticism. The party paid for a Google advert that read: “The so-called ‘dementia tax’ – get the real facts.”
The Spectator (the right-leaning magazine once edited by Boris Johnson) claims to have coined the term in reference to the Tory manifesto, not the Labour Party.