‘Now or never’ chance to reform social care as Jeremy Hunt backs tax rises

BORIS JOHNSON should seize a “now or never” opportunity to reform social care – and introduce new taxes for middle class families – in 2021, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt declares today.

Boris Johnson first promised social care reform on the day that he became Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister’s former Tory leadership rival also says public goodwill towards the NHS over the Covid-19 pandemic means families may be less resistant to the advent of new taxes.

Mr Hunt, the current chair of Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee, believes the issue could provide Mr Johnson with a legacy similar to the establishment of the NHS in 1948 after the Second World War.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

His intervention comes as longstanding campaigner Mike Padgham, chair of North Yorkshire’s Independent Care Group, renews his call for social care to have “its Nye Bevan moment” – reference to the founding father of the NHS.

Boris Johnson is being urged to prioritise social care reform following Brexit.

“We need someone to come along and grasp the issue, create a solution, and go down in history as the person who solved how to look after the country’s oldest and most vulnerable,” Mr Padgham told The Yorkshire Post.

“Now that Brexit is done, the PM must get social care done with the same amount of energy used to negotiate the a deal with the EU. Nothing is impossible. No more excuses. He needs to tell the Treasury this is going to happen. No more prevarication.”

Mr Johnson used his first speech as Prime Minister in July 2019 to say “we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”.

Its contents have never been published and Mr Hunt’s committee has called for £7bn extra funding a year by 2023-24 to offset an ageing population and rises in the National Living Wage.

Mike Padgham is chair of North Yorkshire's Independent Care Group.

The MPs also recommended a £46,000 cap on the total costs anyone should have to pay for their care, drawing on proposals unveiled by economist Sir Andrew Dilnot in 2011.

Mr Hunt said: “I think the biggest battle now is with the Treasury, because the sums of money are eye-watering. We were even more bankrupt as a country after the Second World War and then we had the imagination and vision to set up the NHS, and I think this is another 1948 moment.”

The former minister suggested a tax on the middle-aged might be required along the lines of Germany and Japan. “Both of them, interestingly, introduced a tax surcharge to people over 40, which is only a small amount extra, but as you get older you start to pay a little bit more. And neither have had public pushback for doing that,” he said.

The alternative, he ventured, was the model Italy or Spain where families, and invariably women, put their careers on hold in order to look after relatives. “I suspect that’s a price we would not want to pay,” added Mr Hunt.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said last night that reforms will be brought forward “as soon as possible”.

Why 2021 must be year of social care reform

NATIONAL care leaders today gave their backing to calls for urgent reform in 2021.

Vic Rayner, executive director at the National Care Forum, said Boris Johnson must grasp “the importance and value of social care – and makes it front and centre of Government concern for all the right reasons”.

Simon Bottery, senior fellow at The King’s Fund health think tank, said Mr Johnson must act or he will become “yet another Prime Minister who promised reform but failed to deliver it”.

And Jane Townson, head of the UK Homecare Association, wants a system which ensures people’s needs are met and costs covered “with fairness and clarity regarding the responsibilities of state and citizen”.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.