Conservative manifesto: Pledges on social care and immigration

18 May

An elderly man being cared for

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The Tories are proposing to tackle the “unfairness” in the care system

The Conservatives will promise further measures to curb immigration in their manifesto, the BBC understands.

Firms will be asked to pay more to hire migrant workers, who will in turn be asked to pay more to use the NHS.

Theresa May will also announce a series of measures to “get to grips” with the rising cost of social care.

Winter fuel payments, which pensioners currently get irrespective of need, will be means-tested, with the proceeds going directly to care for the elderly.

The prime minister will promise no-one will have to sell their home in their lifetime or that of their surviving partner to fund care.

The manifesto will also include a commitment to end universal free school lunches for infants.

There are unconfirmed reports that the “triple lock” tax commitment not to raise income tax, VAT or national insurance, made at the 2015 election, will be ditched and there will be a revised timetable to eliminate the deficit and balance the books by the middle of the next decade.

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The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Mrs May would put forward an “uncompromising” message on immigration, saying high immigration levels can harm community cohesion, and restate her commitment to bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands.

The manifesto, which will be published on Thursday, will promise to “bear down on immigration from outside the EU” across all visa routes.

The prime minister will commit the government to reducing and controlling immigration from Europe after Brexit and sources say she is “clear this means the end of freedom of movement”.

She will announce extra costs for employers who choose to hire non-EU immigrants in skilled jobs by doubling the charge known as the Skills Charge.

The revenue will go into skills training for UK workers. Non-EU migrants will also have to pay more to use the NHS. The manifesto will also rule out removing students from the immigration statistics.

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The Immigration Skills Charge, which was introduced in April, is levied on companies that employ migrants in skilled areas.

It applies to immigrants from outside the European Economic Area and is currently set at £1,000 per employee per year, with a reduced rate of £364 for small or charitable organisations.

Under the Conservative proposals, it will double to £2,000 per employee per year.

Migration target

The plan to stick with the net migration target has caused controversy, with critics saying it will be nearly impossible to meet without doing damage to the economy.

Net migration, the difference between people coming to the UK for more than a year and those leaving, stood at 273,000 in the year to last September. It was last below 100,000 in 1997.

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An editorial in Wednesday’s Evening Standard, whose editor is the former Chancellor George Osborne, suggested that in private ministers were dismissive of the target believing it was unrealistic.

The article says the target, set by David Cameron when the Tories were in opposition, was “economically illiterate” and it was a “mystery” why Mrs May was persisting with it.

‘Hard work’

It urged the prime minister to “sweep away this bad policy from the past”.

Mrs May will say the Conservative manifesto will not shirk the challenges facing the country, whether it be over Brexit or social policy.

She will say the ageing population and the growing number of dementia sufferers have put a strain on the care system and the NHS, with too many people facing “high costs and inadequate treatment”.

Under the Tories’ plans, winter fuel payments for all pensioners will come to an end with assistance limited to the least well-off through a means-testing system.

At the moment, all pensioners qualify for one-off payments of between £100 and £300 each winter.

Successive governments have defended the principle of universal eligibility in the face of criticism that they are a perk for wealthier pensioners who don’t need the money.

‘Unity of purpose’

Theresa May will reject a cap on overall care costs, recommended by an independent commission three years ago, but say no family should see their assets depleted below £100,000 from paying care bills, an increase on the current £23,250 figure.

For the first time, the cost of someone’s home will be taken into account in the assessment of domiciliary care, as well as residential care, needs and whether they should qualify for state support.

The Conservatives say this will raise extra funds and ensure people are cared for them wherever is best.

The prime minister, who has been front and centre of her party’s campaign, will call for “unity of purpose” as Brexit negotiations begin in earnest, saying the country faces the most “challenging” period in her lifetime.

“It is the responsibility of leaders to be straight with people about the challenges ahead and the hard work required to overcome them.”

“As we embark on the momentous journey ahead of us over the next few years, our shared values, interests and ambitions can – and must – bring us together as a united country.”

In an article for the Sun, the prime minister says she is determined to cut the cost of living for ordinary working families, keep taxes low and “to intervene when markets are not working as they should”.

Labour said the Conservatives had broken 50 promises over the past two years, on living standards, NHS spending, school funding and the deficit, and could not be trusted.

The SNP, meanwhile, said Theresa May wanted a “free hand to dismantle the welfare state and to push through their reckless plans for a hard Brexit which threaten jobs, investment and livelihoods.”

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