The government is considering introducing an age-tax on over-40s to help fund the UK’s crisis-hit social care sector.
A report that ministers are studying radical plans to hike tax or national insurance contributions for people aged over 40 has caused outrage after the Guardian claims the new plans will compel people to “insure themselves against hefty bills for care when they are older.”
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock is reported to be “a keen advocate of the plan” currently being examined by the prime minister’s new taskforce at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Social care is a devolved power with different schemes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but an over-40s tax to pay for it could apply UK-wide as revenue raising matters remain at the Treasury.
In England, the system currently provides free at-home care from councils for people with less than £23,250 in capital, excluding their primary residence. Non-homeowners can receive residential social care while “others have to sell their home to pay for care or make their own arrangements”, states the Independent.
While sources claim the principle to charge over 40s for reforming a system to care for an aging population is winning support among ministers, it has provoked indignation and some ridicule on Twitter.
A tweet to chancellor Rishi Sunak linked the Guardian’s story and said: “I think you’ll find age discrimination is illegal. See you in court.”
While Joseph Quendon quipped: “Asking for the #over40s to pay extra tax is like saying, well why dont we just tax people based on their weight…”
However, Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams said the proposals “may be rather a good deal, since that system offers a level of provision and reassurance that we can only dream of here at the moment.”
From death tax through dementia tax – funding social care is highly problematic
Funding the UK’s social care system is a long running issue that has proved problematic for politicians and policy makers. A decade ago the Tories accused Gordon Brown’s Labour government of planning a “death tax” to help fund a national care service by imposing a levy at the time of death.
More recently, in 2017 Theresa May’s election manifesto included a plan for people to pay for social care by selling their home and was quickly branded a “dementia tax” as it would only hit those needing care in their later life.
Boris Johnson addressed the issue head-on in his first speech as prime minister where he proudly stated, in verbatim: “My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care and so I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve”.
While pedants may ask, what happened to “the clear plan we have prepared”, given the PM’s taskforce is reported to be looking at options including models based on Japan and Germany’s funding for their social care systems; the Independent reports opposition from the Treasury for the over-40 tax and “major differences between different departments on the way forward”.