Conservative plans to recoup the care costs for elderly people from their estates after they die could flounder due to the failings of local authorities in England, a former pensions minister has warned.
Sir Steve Webb, a former Liberal Democrat minister in the coalition under David Cameron, said current plans could be built on “very shaky foundations” due to the way councils used existing “deferred payment” agreements.
Following a Freedom of Information request to 140 councils in England, Sir Steve found wide variations in the way they were used.
While some authorities entered into agreements with dozens of local residents, he found others had not signed even one – with London councils apparently reluctant to use them.
He said: “It is clear that there is already a lottery as to whether people facing significant care costs can exercise their legal right to defer their payments under the existing system.”
The councils who entered the most agreements were Southampton City Council (331), Essex County Council (208) and Middlesbrough Council with 165.
By contrast, 10 authorities in London – including Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Ealing, Hackney and Kensington and Chelsea – had not issued any.
He added: “The Government will need to investigate very quickly why the present system is not working properly, otherwise there is a danger of building a new system on very shaky foundations”.
Under plans introduced in 2015, people living in residential care can ask their local authority to meet their care home bills – with the money later clawed back from the sale of their family home.
The Conservatives are planning to extend the arrangement to cover thousands of people receiving care in their own home – with the costs recovered after they die.