Theresa May has u-turned on her flagship social care policy just four days after it was announced as the headline measure in the Conservative Party manifesto.
The prime minister announced that a cap on social care costs will now be included as an option in a consultation on reforms to be launched after the General Election
A cap on costs was promised by David Cameron in his 2015 manifesto, but was dropped from May’s manifesto which she launched on Thursday.
May said today it was not a u-turn, “nothing has changed” in her policy, and accused the Labour leader of making “fake claims”.
But health secretary Jeremy Hunt said last week the Conservatives were being “completely explicit” that the idea of a cap was being abandoned because it was not “fair”.
May has come under continued pressure from opposition parties who sensed the proposals - which meant elderly people would have to pay for care in their own home if they have total assets of £100,000 or more - were going down badly with voters.
The policy has been dubbed the “dementia tax” by critics who argued the Tory policy would mean elderly people who suffered from dementia and need long-term care would have to pay more than those who suffered from other issues including having a stroke.
In a sign of social care taking centre stage in the election battle, both Tories and Labour have bought ads on Google which pop up when users of the search engine type in “dementia tax”.
May accused of being ‘weak and wobbly’
Revealing the changes to her policy at a press conference in Wales, May was hammered by questions from reporters over how it left her claim to be offering “strong and stable” leadership.
Channel 4’s Michael Crick suggested the u-turn showed the prime minister “weak and wobbly”.
Jeremy Corbyn said on Twitter: “You can’t trust a word Theresa May says. This is a government in chaos and confusion.”
And Labour MPs jumped on May’s decision to make changes to her policy so soon after announcing it.
News that the u-turn was coming was first announced on Twitter by former chancellor turned Evening Standard editor George Osborne.
Hunt told the newspaper: “We want to make sure that people who have worked hard and saved up all their lifetimes, do not have to worry about losing all their assets through a disease as random as dementia.
“That’s why we want to introduce and absolute limit on the amount of money anyone has to pay for their care.”
But he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme just four days ago:
“Not only are we dropping it (the pledge) but we are dropping it ahead of a General Election and we are being completely explicit in our manifesto that we’re dropping it.
“And we’re dropping it because we have looked again at this proposal and we don’t think it’s fair.
“The reason we don’t think it’s fair is because you could have a situation where someone who owns a house worth £1 million, £2 million, has expensive care costs of perhaps £100,000 or £200,000, ends up under that proposal not having to pay those care costs because they are capped and those costs get borne by taxpayers.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said despite the changes announced by the prime minister, “May’s manifesto meltdown changes nothing”.
“As Theresa May has made clear herself, nothing has changed and her heartless dementia tax remains in place. This is a cold and calculated attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes,” he said.
“Theresa May still wants to take older people’s homes to fund social care. Families deserve to know exactly how much of their homes would be up for grabs now, not after the election.”