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Boris Johnson shrugs off threat of MP rebellion over social care plans

Boris Johnson stuck by plans to significantly scale back social care support for poorer households in England on Monday as he shrugged off warnings of a Conservative rebellion against his policy.

The UK prime minister’s government has been accused by its own backbench MPs of pushing through social care reforms that will disproportionately hit pensioners with lower-value homes, many of whom live in northern parts of England.

Under the proposals, lower-asset households will have to pay a proportion of their care costs for longer before they hit a cap of £86,000, after which government support kicks in.

The decision to remove means-tested support from the government’s calculation of the cap means pensioners with higher priced homes can expect to receive more protection against their care costs than those living in less-expensive properties.

Johnson’s plan was expected to pass in the Commons on Monday night despite a number of Tory MPs warning the move will hit their less well-off constituents in ​the so-called Red Wall of former Labour seats in the Midlands and northern England.

Ahead of the vote, some senior Tories made clear their opposition to the proposals. Writing on Twitter, former Conservative Whip Mark Harper said he would be voting against the bill, arguing that it disadvantaged the less well-off.

Another Tory MP noted: “The low cost of housing in my area means my constituents are not getting the same treatment as those in the South.” He warned that he would “support the government tonight but not necessarily when [the bill is] back from the Lords”, adding: “Those of us with concerns are expecting concessions.”

People with homes worth about £100,000, and who have significant social care needs, will be worst hit by the plans. But in a speech on Monday, Johnson argued that the new proposals were “progressive” and “much more generous than any previous system”.

“Hitherto you have no support unless you have assets of £23,000 or less, now the state steps in to help you if you have assets of £100,000 and for the first time there’s a limit on the costs you could be asked to pay,” he told reporters at the CBI Conference in South Shields.

“There’s a housing disregard so if you and your spouse are living in your home that’s disregarded from the assessment of the assets.”

However, the architect of the original blueprint for social care reform has warned that less well-off pensioners “face real catastrophe” if they are hit with very large care costs. “That was what we were trying to fix,” Sir Andrew Dilnot told the BBC’s Today programme. “So I think this leaves a significant hole in the overall set of proposals.”

The Conservative party manifesto in the last election pledged that people would not have to sell their homes to pay for care costs. But Business minister Paul Scully was unable to confirm on Monday morning that individuals would not have to sell their property in order to afford their care. “I can’t tell you what individuals are going to do,” he told Sky News.

James White, head of public affairs and campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society, said the cap on care costs was still “worryingly high” with only one in five people with dementia estimated to ever reach the proposed cap limit. “The devil’s in the detail with the exclusion of major costs hitting the less well-off,” he added.

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