UK

'Dementia Tax' Debate Heats Up As Tories Buy Google Ads To Counter Negative Coverage

'A U-turn BEFORE the election - is this a first?'

22/05/2017 11:45 BST | Updated 22/05/2017 16:00 BST

The Tories were empty-chaired on the Victoria Derbyshire programme this morning during a debate on what has become known as (despite the party’s best efforts) the “dementia tax”.

It came mid-way through a shambolic few hours for Theresa May which culminated in an unprecedented U-turn shortly before midday.

Earlier, fear that part of the newly-unveiled social care plan would adopt the name “dementia tax” was laid bare when it transpired the Conservative party had paid for Google Ads in an effort counter online searches.

Unfortunately for May’s party, Monday saw the term become front page news.

The plan will see elderly people pay for care in their own home unless they have less than £100,000 in assets.

Equity from property can be released and paid after death meaning inheritances could be severely diminished.

The policy has come in for heavy criticism with think tank the Kings Fund saying it could deter older people from seeking care and place bigger burdens on unpaid carers. 

Last week a distraught caller to Nick Ferrari’s LBC show lambasted May for what she sees as a Tory manifesto that could leave her homeless.

She claimed if her own health failed and they were made to pay for her mother’s care then when she died she could be left homeless if their house was sold to cover the cost. 

Boris Johnson has called the move “responsible” and “brave” but acknowledged people’s concerns.

He told ITV’s Peston on Sunday show: “Whatever happens, people are going to be able to live in their own home. They will have that anxiety taken away and they will be able to pass on a minimum of £100,000 to their kids.

“I do understand people’s reservations and the questions people are asking about some of the detail of this, but the broad thrust is right, and as the PM has said there will be a consultation on getting it right.”

 

But on the Victoria Derbyshire show this morning the Tories failed to send a spokesperson to debate the issue with Norman Lamb of the Lib Dems and Labour’s Catherine West.

Instead releasing a statement that said: “Our plan strengthens the social care system with more and sustainable funding to cope with these long-term pressures and ensure nobody has to sell their home to pay for their care.

“Not to act or just to play politics with the issue in irresponsible. Instead we have chosen to act in the national interest.”

Before midday rumours of a U-turn began circulating, fanned by none other than the Evening Standard’s new editor.

Minutes later May announced in a speech that a cap on social care costs will be included as an option in a consultation on reforms to be launched after the General Election.

U-turn complete and the ridicule commenced. 

Revealing the changes to her policy, May accused Jeremy Corbyn of making “fake claims” about social care proposals.

But Labour MPs leapt on the climbdown and mocked May using her own “strong and stable” campaign slogan against her.