Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell announced at the Labour Party Conference that if elected Labour would promise free personal care for the over 65’s in England, which would bring support in line with provision in Scotland where such care is free for those with the most severe needs.
Currently those with assets of less than £23,250 are eligible for state help against the costs of paying for help with dressing, washing and meals.
The cost of the pledge is estimated at £6bn a year and could double the number of those not having to pay for personal care. The shadow chancellor told the conference that the policy would be funded out of general taxation. The Conservatives have already questioned the Labour spending commitments as the care pledge runs alongside another pledge to axe prescription charges in England, stating that the policies are not appropriately costed and “there wont be the money to pay for it”
A future Labour government would legislate to ensure free care for those in greatest need and could consult on the “eligibility criteria to ensure this system works for all”
While Scotland has already introduced a level of free entitlement as has Wales and Northern Ireland, England has lagged behind despite many promises of reform by both Conservative and Labour leaders. The costs involved are likely to ensure that the benchmark for free personal care remains high.