Health and social care levy will ‘only go up', warns Jeremy Hunt

Asia's Tech News Daily

Jeremy Hunt said the levy was the ‘most transparent’ way of funding health and social care in a democracy – Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/AFP via Getty Images

Boris Johnson's health and social care levy will “only go up” because of the growing costs associated with Britain's ageing population, Jeremy Hunt has said.

Mr Hunt, a former health secretary, said the Government needed to admit to the public that the 1.25 percentage point hike in National Insurance would increase further in the future.

He said the levy was the “most transparent” way of funding health and social care in a democracy, arguing that the extent of any increase could then be debated at every election.

“I think we need to be honest with people. I'm afraid it's only going to go up in the future – that's because of the pressures of demography,” he told Times Radio.

Mr Hunt's intervention comes after ministers last week set out how a £5.4 billion cash injection for social care would be spent over the next three years.

Alongside establishing the £86,000 cap on lifetime care costs, the Government is to set up a repairs service to help older and disabled people adapt their homes so they can live independently or with their families for longer.

At least £300 million will be invested to increase the range of supported housing, and £150 million to drive greater adoption of technology to support independent living and improved care. A previously announced £500 million will go towards ensuring members of the social care workforce have the right training and qualifications and feel valued.

However, MPs and industry leaders have warned that the latest plans will “barely” deliver the funds necessary for local authorities to maintain services for eligible residents.

The squeeze is expected to have knock-on effects for the NHS, with continued delays to elderly people being discharged from hospitals due to problems with finding suitable care packages for them.

Critics also argue that the social care white paper, published on Wednesday, fails to provide solutions to address the sector's mounting workforce crisis, with vacancies expected to hit 105,000 this winter.

The health and social care committee, which Mr Hunt now chairs, has warned that social care spending will need to increase by £7 billion a year by 2023-24 to meet rising levels of need.

Asked on Sunday whether the levy, expected to raise £12 billion annually, was set high enough, Mr Hunt said it was “about the right place to start”. However, he added: “The levy will have to go up over time, over our lifetimes, because the pressures of an ageing population are going to mean that we want more money to go into health and care.

“The levy is the most transparent way in a democracy for people to see that. And then we can have a debate every election, the extent to which that levy will go up.”

In the meantime, Mr Hunt suggested ministers would also need to raise more funds to address the short-term pressures facing the sector, adding that increases of £2 billion annually over the next three year are “not going to be enough”.

“I think that is going to mean a lot of pressure on hospitals,” he said. “We are getting close to a situation where there are as many patients that can't be discharged from hospital because the hospitals can't find a care package as there are Covid patients in hospitals.

“These are large numbers of older people stuck in hospitals – five, six, 7,000 people – because they can't get a care package.”

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