Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:39 pm on 25th February 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee 5:39 pm, 25th February 2020

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Perkins and all the other contributors. There seems to be cross-party consensus that we need to find a solution for all our constituents. I welcome the new Care Minister to her place. We entered the House together, and I know that this subject is a real passion of hers. I am very excited that she is in post, and I think we can expect great things from her in this area of reform. I also thank her predecessor, my hon. Friend Caroline Dinenage; on the day that the chairs were rearranged, she was in my constituency opening a new hospice, and she was absolutely wonderful to all the staff and patients.

It is a delight to speak in this debate, because this issue is the key concern in my constituency, as it will be in many constituencies. We talk about the fact that 18% of people across the UK are over the age of 65, and that that figure will rise to just shy of 25% of the population by 2040. But in my constituency, 30% of constituents are already over the age of 65. That is absolutely fantastic because we are rich in seniority, but it does mean that there are people who have difficult needs and challenges. In a constituency such as mine, people tend to retire down to the coast and downsize, which means they live in smaller properties and pay much less council tax. However, they also tend to need more services from the local community. It is for that very reason that we cannot continue with the concept of council tax funding social care. It is a postcode lottery, and the places that need the most are given the least when it comes to yield.

I would like to see the system centralised, but rather than having another NHS system, we should inject a bit more reform and interest. That is why I said to the Secretary of State that it would be right for us to follow the German model. In the ’90s, Germany had the exact same issues that we have today, with regional imbalances meaning that parts of the German republic just could not afford social care at a local level. There was also great unfairness in the country because certain people just could not access the care that they needed, and it would wipe out their assets. Both parties then fundamentally agreed that it was in the interests of all their constituents to work together on a cross-party basis to deliver reform. That was when the policy of long-term social care insurance funds was established.

The German model requires individuals to pay in. No individual pays more than €138 a month, and the employer matches that amount. Retired people pay the full amount themselves, so the policy gives a nod to intergenerational fairness. It takes risk out of the system; if one individual has greater needs than another, that is not factored into the amount they pay. Crucially, it has been popular. People do not talk about social care as a political issue in Germany in the way that they do in this country.

In a way, this situation is an absolute tragedy. Opposition Front Benchers rightly talk about the years that we have had in Government in which we could have fixed the issue, but they do not focus on what had gone on since 1997. The Labour Government absolutely ducked this issue and were faced with calls from the Conservatives of “death tax”. In return, we got that back in spades when we talked with honesty in our 2017 manifesto and proposed a policy that was then labelled the “dementia tax”. Our constituents—all of us, across the House—must absolutely despair.