Theresa May has said the Conservatives will include a cap on costs in a consultation over the party’s controversial social care plans.
The prime minister’s announcement is a significant reversal after the plan, which will see people pay for their own care until their combined savings and property value falls to £100,000, was attacked as a “dementia tax”.
Speaking in Wrexham, Mrs May insisted that the principles set out in the Conservative manifesto remained the same, but said there would an “absolute limit” to social care costs.
“This manifesto says we will come forward with a consultation paper … and that consultation will include an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs,” she said.
Responding to a question from ITV News correspondent Emily Morgan, the prime minister said there would be an “upper limit, an absolute limit, on the amount that people will pay for care”.
Mrs May insisted the Tory plan remained a “good arrangement” that would effectively tackle the spiraling costs of social care, and sought to portray the cap commitment as a clarification made in response to “fake claims, fear and scaremongering” that she said had been put about by Jeremy Corbyn.
Asked by journalists about the “dementia tax”, the prime minister shook her head repeatedly, saying: “I’m sorry, you are using terms that have been used by the Labour Party to try and scare people in this country.”
But the prime minister’s announcement is in effect a Tory U-turn.
Labour’s election co-ordinator Andrew Gwynne said the prime minster had “thrown her own election campaign into chaos and confusion”.
“She is unable to stick to her own manifesto for more than four days. And by failing to put a figure for a cap on social care costs, she has only added to the uncertainty for millions of older people and their families,” he said.
Mrs May’s climbdown follows what appears to have been a slide in the polls for the Conservatives, prompted by their social care proposal.
The plan has been roundly denounced by the other parties, with Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron predicting it “will be to Theresa May what the poll tax was to Margaret Thatcher”.
In a mark of just how concerned the Conservatives have grown over the way the policy is being seen, the party has paid for an advert on Google that pops up at the top of a search for the term “dementia tax”.
The link takes the reader to a page on the Conservative party website that sets out “the facts” about the policy.
Labour have also bought an advert – it links through to a page attacking Mrs May’s manifesto, with “Tory threat to pensioners” at the top.
And in an apparent sign that George Osborne, the former chancellor, was twisting the knife on the woman who sacked him, an Evening Standard editorial described her announcement as “an astonishing U-turn”, and denounced a “weekend of wobbles” that had lead to a “hasty” change in tack.