Social care reform 'desperately needed' but fears raised about National Insurance impact

CONCERNS have been raised about the government's plans to increase National Insurance payments.

Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 4:58 pm
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on the long-awaited plan to fix the broken social care system. Picture: Toby Melville/PA Wire

Today, prime minister Boris Johnson announced a 1.25 percentage point increase on National Insurance – from 12 per cent to 13.25 per cent – which will come into effect in April next year.

The move is a breakaway from the Conservative Party's manifesto commitment not to raise taxes - but Mr Johnson said the Covid-19 pandemic had forced his hand.

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But while all have acknowledged the need to put more money into the social care sector, some politicians have described the use of National Insurance tax as 'morally backward' putting those on lower incomes at risk of poverty.

Labour MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said: 'The social care system is in crisis, but the government’s manifesto breaking proposals to fund its reforms would hit working people hardest, particularly low earners, young people and businesses still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.

'The fairest way to pay for social care is through progressive taxation, not a rise to national insurance that is not only morally backward, but economically too.

'I have written to the prime minister, launched a city-wide survey and hosted a local meeting with the shadow minister responsible on this issue. I am also currently holding roundtable meetings with care providers and service users.

'Portsmouth and the wider country have for too long needed a clear and long-term plan that is serious about fixing the social care crisis quickly, not one that kicks the can down the road.'

Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said this was a move that 'protects the rich and taxes the poor'.

'Social care reform is years overdue, but my concern is that this doesn't go far enough,' he said.

'The people with the broadest shoulders should carry the biggest weight - this is a regressive tax that hits the wrong people. What's more, social care workers themselves still have to pay it, so they're being taxed for their own fund.

'Personally I think social care should be made free at the point of delivery, just like the NHS was when it was created.'

Conservative MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt, agreed that more will need to be done for the social care sector.

She said: 'I will be looking at the health and social care plan to see what further action will help drive improvements to quality.

'More money to tackle what is a potential crisis in health and a long overdue reform of social care, is welcome, and this is a lot more money. It does deal with one of the fundamental problems for those who need high cost care and are hit with crippling bills.

'More reform is needed but the command paper out today points to that.'

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, Hampshire County Council's executive member adult services and public health, says the extra social care funding is 'desperately' needed.

She said: 'I'm really pleased that we're getting something to establish a sustainable long-term solution.

'The government had to do this and I think National Insurance was the only way to do it - income tax wasn't the answer.

'This is the biggest expense for the county council and it's not just older people that social care is for; it covers more than people realise, so the problems go much deeper than it first appears.

'I'm glad a decision has been reached and am keen to see the details of how we can take it forward.'

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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