2017 General Election
Prime minister Theresa May called a ‘snap’ general election in April 2017. The Conservatives were expected to win, but the election on 8 June resulted in a hung parliament with no one party winning a majority in the House of Commons. On 9 June, the Conservative Party formed a minority government supported by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Social care debate
Conservative manifesto pledges
On 18 May 2017, the Conservative Party published its election manifesto. In the document, the party stated that on social care, ‘where others have failed to lead, we will act.’ Along with repeating the commitment to a social care green paper (first announced in March 2017), the election manifesto provided further detail on the government’s plans for reforming the funding system.
In the manifesto, the party made three related pledges to:
- include the value of property in the means test for people receiving care at home (domiciliary care), as well as for those supported in residential or nursing homes (for whom this was already the case)
- increase the mean test threshold from £23,250 to £100,000
- extend the deferred payments agreement scheme for residential care recipients to those receiving care at home, ‘so no-one will have to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for care’.
The manifesto also rejected the idea of a cap on lifetime care costs as recommended in 2011’s Dilnot Report. A cap set at £72,000 had been due to come into effect in 2016 – legislated for in the Care Act 2014 – but the government had delayed its introduction until 2020 due to local government funding pressures.
'Dementia tax' and U-turn
The approach was the subject of much controversy and critics branded the approach a 'dementia tax'. Given that the average UK house was worth £215,847 at the time, most homeowners needing domiciliary care would be worse off under the proposals.
In the context of this criticism, the prime minister stated on 22 May 2017 that ‘nothing has changed’ and the Green Paper would in fact include proposals for an ‘absolute limit’ on care costs.
According to IPPR, the debate over its manifesto pledges on social care was considered by most ‘to be a contributing factor in the Conservatives’ (relatively) poor performance in the election.’
After the election
The government did not refer to any of the more specific manifesto proposals on adult social care in the Queen’s speech in June 2017. Instead, it stated it ‘will work to improve social care and will bring forward proposals for consultation.’
Soon afterwards, on 5 July 2017, the government announced the first of numerous delays to publishing the social care green paper – moving its planned publication from summer 2017 to the end of 2017.
Manifesto plans to change NHS legislation
The Five year forward view for the NHS in England had proposed greater integration within the NHS, and across health and social care, by creating place-based health systems. The Conservative Party’s 2017 Manifesto supported the plan and its implementation through Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
The 2017 Manifesto also referred potential legislative change to support the Five year forward view: ‘If the current legislative landscape is either slowing implementation or preventing clear national or local accountability, we will consult and make the necessary legislative changes. This includes the NHS’s own internal market, which can fail to act in the interests of patients and creates costly bureaucracy.’
However, the result of a minority government put plans for change in doubt for the time being.
The Conservative and Unionist Party.
Forward, Together - Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and Prosperous Future: The Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto 2017.
The Conservative and Unionist Party; 2017.
Adult social care: policy developments under the current Government (England).
House of Commons Library; 2020.
Asthana A, Elgot J.
Theresa May ditches manifesto plan with 'dementia tax' U-turn.
The Guardian; 22 May 2017.
Quilter-Pinner H, Snelling C.
Saving social care: A fair funding settlement for the future.
Five Year Forward View and Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View [webpage].
NHS England; 2014.
Amending the 2012 Act: can it be done?
The King’s Fund; 2018.