Han­cock pon­ders a ‘tax on age’ to pay for so­cial care

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front Page - By Edward Mal­nick

A NEW levy tar­geted at the over-40s is be­ing con­sid­ered by min­is­ters to help solve the so­cial care fund­ing cri­sis.

Matt Han­cock, the Health and So­cial Care Sec­re­tary, told The Sun­day Tele­graph he was “at­tracted to” a cross­party plan for a com­pul­sory pre­mium de­ducted from the earn­ings of the mid­dle-aged and over-65s to fund the cost of their care in later life.

The pro­pos­als, set out by two Com­mons com­mit­tees, are based on the sys­tem in Ger­many un­der which all work­ers over 40 pay 2.5 per cent of their wages into a pot for­mally ear­marked for so­cial care.

The plan also in­cludes of­fer­ing cash pay­outs to young and el­derly adults re­ceiv­ing care, to en­able them to pay car­ers, in­clud­ing fam­ily mem­bers. It is more rad­i­cal than an idea Mr Han­cock pre­vi­ously dis­closed he was con­sid­er­ing, of an “opt-out” pro­posal sim­i­lar to the auto-en­rol­ment sys­tem of pen­sions. The pre­mi­ums would be com­pul­sory and only levied on older work­ers, leav­ing min­is­ters open to ac­cu­sa­tions of a tax on age.

Dr Sarah Wol­las­ton, the Tory chair­man of the Com­mons health com­mit­tee, one of the two pan­els that pro­posed the scheme, said it was in­tended to avoid putting an “un­fair” bur­den on “work­ing-age young em­ployed adults”.

Mr Han­cock said: “I am impressed by the work of the se­lect com­mit­tees who have come up with a model that is adapted from what was in­tro­duced about 20 years ago in Ger­many and it ap­pears to be work­ing there.”

He added: “One of the rea­sons I’m

at­tracted to the pro­posal is that it’s cross party. This is a prob­lem which can only be solved by peo­ple com­ing to­gether be­hind a so­lu­tion, be­cause as soon as it’s turned into a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball it makes it extremely dif­fi­cult to make any progress at all.

“I’m pre­pared to have a range of op­tions and see if we can build a con­sen­sus around one of them rather than be dog­matic about it.”

Mr Han­cock’s com­ments sug­gest the plan will form one of the Govern­ment’s for­mal pro­pos­als in a so­cial care Green Pa­per due to be pub­lished by Christ­mas.

The scheme was pro­posed in June fol­low­ing a joint com­mit­tee in­quiry set up to find ways to tackle the “cat­a­strophic” costs of so­cial care. The pre­mium would sup­ple­ment funds raised by lo­cal coun­cils.

Mr Han­cock has said that ma­jor changes were re­quired to cope with the ris­ing num­ber of el­derly peo­ple need­ing care, and to ad­dress in­jus­tices in the cur­rent sys­tem. Dr Wol­las­ton added: “It has to be com­pul­sory other­wise it wouldn’t be done.”

Un­der the com­mit­tees’ pro­pos­als for a “so­cial care pre­mium” em­ploy­ees and em­ploy­ers would split con­tri­bu­tions, with tax levied through a new mech­a­nism or added to the ex­ist­ing Na­tional In­sur­ance scheme.

In Ger­many, an adult earn­ing a £27,000 salary pays about £675 a year, while those on £50,000 pay up to £1,250.

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