Health and Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:28 pm on 16th January 2020.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford 2:28 pm, 16th January 2020

My hon. Friend is exactly right, and I wanted to talk briefly about the various ways in which we can achieve a sustainable system. We could have a compulsory social care payment that is made by everyone of working age and, indeed, beyond working age. That has been recommended by Select Committees of this House. Alternatively, I would suggest that we could have not a tax, but a hugely desirable saving, based on the model of the pension system, whereby the vast majority of people are encouraged to—and do—subscribe to auto enrolment pensions, but it is not compulsory.

In that pensions model, we would have the equivalent of a state pension—a universal care entitlement—which would have to be better than the current provision of care. On top of that, we would urge millions of people voluntarily to save for a care supplement, as they do for a private pension. That would guarantee them the quality of care that they would want in their old age. Of course, not everyone will be able to make those savings, and the system needs to be better for those who cannot contribute towards their own care if they need it in old age, but it is essential that we use this massive wealth, particularly among those who are 60 and above; a small sliver could help us to achieve these aims.

At the moment, the equity in housing of those over the age of 65 is £1.7 trillion. Just a small sliver of that would provide a much greater sum of money and therefore a much more sustainable system. The Prime Minister is absolutely right when he says that nobody should be forced to sell their own home to pay for care. People have worked for that, and will want to give some of it to future generations, but a small sliver saved into the sort of insurance system that I am suggesting would make a huge difference and would put the social care system on a sustainable level.

I have a final thought, which puts these ideas in the wider context of today’s debate. If we do not sort this issue out, the long-term plan for the NHS will not work. The 2020s need to be a decade of hope for the NHS, and every one nation Conservative will want that to happen, but to make that real we need to solve the social care crisis. I wish Ministers well in achieving this, and urge the House to reject the Opposition amendment.