Tories accused of 'manifesto meltdown' as May announces U-turn on care fees

Theresa May: Strong and stable?
Theresa May: Strong and stable?
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Theresa May has been accused of being in a "manifesto meltdown" after unveiling plans to introduce a cap on care fees just days after she appeared to rule the policy out.

Speaking at the launch of the Conservative's Welsh manifesto this morning, the Prime Minister said if re-elected she would place "an absolute limit" on what people will need to pay for their care.

The surprise announcement comes less than a week after Mrs May unveiled controversial plans for an overhaul of care funding, including reforms that would increase the number of pensioners paying for at-home service.

The proposals have sparked a fierce backlash - including from some Tory candidates - with rivals parties dubbing it the "dementia tax".

Mrs May now appears to have succumbed to pressure from within her own ranks as she confirmed a future Tory government would introduce a cap on care costs.

It amounts to a significant concession after the Tory manifesto said proposals from the Dilnot Report on social care, which included a ceiling on the total amount any individual would have to pay, "mostly benefited a small number of wealthier people".

Speaking in Wrexham, Mrs May said the proposals would be included in the social care consultation that is referenced in the manifesto.

She denied that the announcement amounts to a U-turn, claiming the party "[has] not changed the principles of the policy" set out last Thursday.

"My manifesto is honest and upfront about our challenges. It includes plans to strengthen the social care system with more and sustainable funding to cope with the long-term pressures caused by the fact that we are an ageing society," she said.

"We will make sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care. We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay. And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family."

The Tories have already encountered resistance over plans to mean-test winter fuel allowance, which would see millions of pensioners lose out on up top £300 a week.

Last week, the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said she would not implement the policy north of the border because it is too cold.

Tory candidates have expressed dismay at the party's handling of social care policy, with one telling the Yorkshire Post that it has "single-handedly resuscitated the Labour campaign".

Another said: "People recognise the fairness element of the fuel allowance policy but the social care policy hasn't been properly sold."

Responding to the latest development, the Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb accused the Prime Minister of being in the midst of a "manifesto meltdown".

He described the policy as a "cold and calculated attempt to pull the wool over people's eyes".

"As Theresa May has made clear herself, nothing has changed and her heartless dementia tax remains in place," he said.

"Theresa May still wants to take older people's homes to fund social care. Families deserve to know exactly how much of their homes would be up for grabs now, not after the election."