Labour will today pledge £6bn a year for free personal care for the elderly as the feuding opposition party tries to gear up for a looming general election.
John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, will use his conference speech on Monday afternoon to unveil the social care policy, designed to let older people live independently in their own homes.
Mr McDonnell will say the move will be funded by fresh increases in taxes rather than “gimmicky insurance schemes”.
The move comes as the Tory government prevaricates over its own plan to overhaul social care. The FT in July revealed that a white paper was being prepared, with publication expected in the Autumn, and that free personal care was one of the options being considered. However, last month Boris Johnson said only that a plan would be delivered “in due course”, emphasising that any solution must ensure that people did not have to sell their homes.
Labour said its pledge would more than double the number of people receiving state-funded care and reduce the number of people facing “catastrophic” costs for care. Currently, only people with minimal levels of savings are allowed to receive publicly-funded personal care.
“Free personal care will ensure people with dementia receive the same care as those with other conditions, reduce the burden on unpaid carers and benefit the NHS by reducing delayed transfers of care from hospital and admissions to care homes and hospitals,” the party said.
Sally Warren, director of policy at the King’s Fund, said the case for reform was overwhelming but warned that “free personal care is not the same thing as free social care, and some people would still be left facing catastrophic costs of care”.
Earlier the party had dramatically backed a plan to abolish all independent schools in the UK if it wins the next general election, following a motion passed by conference delegates.
The opposition party has resolved to include a commitment in its next election manifesto to “integrate all private schools into the state sector”. This would be achieved by withdrawing charitable status, tax exemptions — including business rates — and all other public subsidies from private institutions.
Other policies announced at the conference included interest-free loans for electric cars, the abolition of prescription charges, the scrapping of Ofsted and an end to non-dom status.
Meanwhile, according to the Kings Fund, Labour’s policy of free personal care could require about an extra £6bn in 2020/21 and £8bn by 2030/3.
Labour was unable to say specifically how it would find the £30bn required to cover the pledge over the period of a five-year Parliamentary term.
The party’s 2017 manifesto promised a more modest extra £8bn over five years.
“Labour will lay out our total additional social care spending pledges ahead of the general election in our new fully-costed manifesto,” an official said on Sunday. “Funding for Labour’s National Care Service will be through general taxation rather than any form of levy.”
Mr McDonnell will tell the Labour conference in Brighton that a million people are not getting the care they need because of almost £8bn of cuts to council budgets for social care since 2010 as part of the Tory government’s attempts to balance the books.
“The truth is our social care sector is a national scandal,” he will say. “More than five million unpaid carers looking after loved ones. And overworked, underpaid care workers only being allowed 10-minute visits to those they care for . . . Because the current system won’t pay for more.”