What is the social care cap? Changes to funding of care costs explained - as MPs vote to back £86,000 limit

The Health and Care Bill sets out key legislative proposals to reform the delivery and organisation of health services in England

A debate on the wider Health and Social Care Bill took place on Monday (22 November), with a number of amendments discussed and voted on by MPs.

Included in this was a debate on the relevant amendment for social care, with MPs voting on new social care funding proposals.

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But what are the social care plans and what was the result of the vote?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the social care cap?

The cap on care costs is the maximum contribution that anyone may need to make towards their care costs over their lifetime.

For those less able to afford this contribution, a means test is in place to ensure the state helps them so that they will not have to pay the full amount.

The cap on personal care costs is a central element of the Government’s plans to change how adult social care in England is funded, with the idea that from October 2023, no one will pay more than £86,000 over their lifetime for personal care, such as washing, dressing and eating.

Once people have reached this cap, ongoing costs for personal care will be paid for by local authorities.

Money spent on living costs, including food, energy bills and accommodation would not count towards the limit.

The threshold for getting some council support to pay for costs will also be made more generous, with people with assets up to £100,000 able to qualify instead of the current limit of £23,250.

The Government also published guidance confirming that only payments people make out of their own pocket will count.

The original plan was for the cap to include both care costs paid by individuals and contributions from councils, but the amendment to its plans last week said support payments from councils would not count towards the £86,000 limit on personal care costs, which means poorer pensioners could have to pay more before the Government steps in to help.

On Monday evening, MPs backed an amendment to the Health and Care Bill required to implement the Government’s proposed cap by 272 votes to 246.

Nineteen Conservative MPs voted against the Government.

The bill will now head to the House of Lords, where peers are widely expected to push for changes to the Government’s blueprint for how the social care cap will work.

What have people said about the plans?

The proposals have proved controversial, with Labour saying it was a "con" and calling on Tory MPs to help them vote it down.

However, Business Minister Paul Scully said the proposals "strike a balance".

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there was "no perfect system" and the plan was "necessary", "fair" and "responsible".

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, called it "daylight robbery", telling BBC Breakfast those with smaller assets - especially in the north of the country - would end up losing a larger proportion than the wealthy.

Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, wrote on Twitter: “An £86,000 cap will never be the fairest way of funding social care however you do it.

“Social care on NHS terms, funded by wealth taxes and a 10% levy on estates, is the way to go.”

During a debate prior to the vote, Health minister Edward Argar told MPs “no one will lose” as a result of the new proposed plans, despite criticism.

He said: “Reform of social care is an issue that successive governments over decades have failed to tackle.

“This Government is delivering a package, and package is the key, of reforms that will both tackle the wider challenges faced by the adult social care system as well as reform of how social care is funded, to ensure that everyone regardless of where they live or their levels of assets is protected from catastrophic costs.

“Let me remove all doubt on this issue: no one will lose from these reforms, compared to the system we have now, and the overwhelming majority will win.

“Underpinning the reforms set out in the plan is an additional £5.4 billion over the next three years. This funding will end wholly unpredictable care costs and include at least £500 million to support the adult social care work force.”

Shadow Health Minister, Liz Kendall, questioned Argar’s claims, saying: “Is it not the case, as illustrated by the Health Foundation, that people with very modest homes worth under £106,000 will never hit the cap and therefore will not be better off under the Government’s proposed system than they are now?”

Argar responded: “I said no one would be worse off, and the majority would be significantly, would be better off. That’s the point I make to her – they wouldn’t be worse off.”

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that he feels “conflicted” about the proposed plans.

He said: “I feel conflicted by new clause 49 because I think that what we will end up with after this is a whole lot better for people on low incomes than what we had before because the means-test threshold is raised from £23,000 to £100,000 so I think that is a very, very significant improvement.

“My concern is that when it comes to social care, our entire debate is focusing on what contributions do and don’t contribute to the cap, when the fundamental problem in social care is the core funding to local authorities.”

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