Boris Johnson remains committed to “sustainable reform” of the social care system despite a growing Conservative backlash over reported plans, Downing Street has said.
Reports ministers are set to raise National Insurance to fund the changes to the system in England have been met with anger by Tory backbenchers, as it would be a breach of their general election commitment.
Critics have warned the move would benefit homeowner pensioners, especially in the affluent southeast, at the expense of younger people in work.
They said it would undermine the government’s “levelling up” agenda, although Downing Street refused to reveal details of the plan drawn up by Mr Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
An announcement is expected this week but the PM’s spokesman would only say: “We are committed to setting out long-term sustainable reform of the sector and that is what we will do, but beyond that, I am not going to be getting into any more speculation.
“The challenges that face the social care sector are longstanding and have successively not been addressed, and that is something the prime minister is committed to doing.”
Armed forces minister James Heappey earlier told Sky News he understood the plan would be announced this week.
He said Conservative Party promises had been “deferred” because of the pandemic and that there were still three years left of this parliament to go.
Mr Heappey told Sky News: “There is still a majority of 80 which gives the government the ability to deal with these very hard issues and make no mistake, reforming social care will be a very hard issue to deal with.
“There will be no consensus over any one option that might be put forward by the chancellor.
“But the government and parliament and the nation need to deal with this, this is something that has been ducked by many governments.
“Our social contract, that deal that in your working life you pay taxes in order to support those who are in retirement at that point and in turn those who are working while you’re retired will support you – that social contract is broken at the moment, reform is needed.”
But former minister Jake Berry, leader of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, warned against a policy that appeared to benefit elderly voters in southern seats.
He said that as chancellor, Mr Javid was a great believer in not “racking up the jobs tax” but appeared to have undergone a “Damascene conversion” since becoming health secretary.
Mr Berry said: “It doesn’t really seem to be reasonable that people who are going to work in my own constituency in east Lancashire, probably on lower wages than many other areas of the country, will pay tax to support people to keep hold of their houses in other parts of the country where house prices may be much higher.”
Reports have suggested lifetime contributions on care will be capped at about £80,000, while National Insurance will be increased by between 1% and 2% to raise between £10bn and £11bn a year.
Tory former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood warned against a “stupid” tax rise.
“A tax on jobs when you want to promote more and better paid employment is particularly stupid,” he said.
Former Tory chancellors Lord Hammond, Lord Clarke and Lord Lamont have all criticised the plan, while former prime minister Sir John Major called it “regressive”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also indicated his party would oppose the proposal.
Research by the charity Action for Children has revealed that working families would be facing the biggest overall drop in their benefits income since 2010.
It has led to criticism from MPs and charities that Mr Johnson is driving families into poverty.