Under proposals set out in the Conservative manifesto, the value of assets people will be able to hold before being asked to pay their care bills rises to £100,000 from £23,250 currently.
The “triple lock” on pensions will be replaced with a less generous, though cheaper for the taxpayer, “double lock” – ensuring they still rise in line with prices or wages, whichever is higher – while wealthy pensioners will no longer received the winter fuel allowance, worth between £100 and £300, with the money saved going towards the social care system.
The Prime Minister said the scheme marked the first time a government had produced a proper long-term plan for the sustainability of social care in England.
Under the new Conservative blueprint a planned £72,000 cap on care costs, which had been due to come in in 2020, will be scrapped.
However, no pensioner will be forced to sell their property to pay for care, either in a residential home or in their own home, until after their death.
Mrs May said that as people would not have to pay while they were alive, it would remove the worry that people would have to sell their homes while they were still alive or see their savings dwindle away.
We are going to take away the worry of people about how they are going to pay for their care
She added that the triple lock had been introduced at a time when there had been a “significant disparity” in pensioner incomes which had now been addressed.
“We are going to take away the worry of people about how they are going to pay for their care and whether their savings are going to be depleted to virtually nothing,” she said.
“What we believe in is ensuring we’re providing a system that provides people with dignity in their old age but doing it in a way that is fair across the generations.”
But critics warned the proposals left people facing an uncertain future with no control over their care costs.
And one Conservative think-tank described the plan to include the value of an elderly person’s property in the means test for care in their own home as ‘the biggest stealth tax in history’.
Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Tory think-tank Bow Group, said: “These proposals will mean that the majority of property owning citizens could be transferring the bulk of their assets to the government upon death for care they have already paid a lifetime of taxes to receive.
“It’s a tax on death and on inheritance. It will mean that in the end, the government will have taken the lions share of a lifetime earnings in taxes.
“If enacted, it is likely to represent the biggest stealth tax in history and when people understand that they will be leaving most of their estate to the government, rather than their families, the Conservative Party will experience a dramatic loss of support.”
Sir Andrew Dilnot, whose review of social care led to the cap on costs which is now to be abandoned, said that the changes would leave people unable to plan for the future.
“There’s nothing you can do to protect yourself against care costs, you can’t insure it because the private sector won’t insure it, and by refusing to implement the cap that Conservatives are now saying they’re not going to provide social insurance for it.
“So people will be left helpless knowing that what will happen is if they’re unlucky enough to suffer the need for care costs, they’ll be entirely on their own until they’re down to the last £100,000, all of their wealth including their house.”
“The analogy is a bit like saying to somebody you can’t insure your house against burning down, if it does burn down then you’re completely on your own, you have to pay for all of it until you’re down to the last £100,000 of all your assets and income,” he added.
Mark Homer, of Progressive Property, said: “Theresa May’s manifesto pledge to wait until people die before the government can recover the cost of care is an attempt to dress up more punitive rules
which are likely to mean that most will be worse off losing more of their hard earned cash to government.
“With the value of the home of those who require both domestic and residential care being included in the valuation calculation of their home this tax grab will unfairly affect many whose parents have strived to buy their home and pay their mortgage down.”