Disabled campaigners have criticised the Conservative party for ignoring the social care needs of hundreds of thousands of working-age disabled people in its general election manifesto.
The prime minister, Theresa May, was already facing criticism for a chaotic U-turn over the party’s policy on charging for social care.
But now she is also facing accusations that the manifesto only addresses the needs of older people, and completely ignores younger disabled service-users.
Neither the original manifesto position on social care, or the abrupt change of policy announced by May at the weekend, make any mention of working-age disabled people.
The manifesto talks at length instead about “our system of care for the elderly”, “elderly care”, “needs in old age”, “pensioner households with modest assets” and “an efficient elderly care system”.
The policy was to revolve around allowing every older person to retain at least £100,000 of their assets and savings, while the value of people’s homes would now be taken into account – when calculating charges – for those receiving domiciliary care as well as those receiving residential care.
But following widespread criticism, May announced that there would also be a lifetime cap on care charges, although she did not say at what level it would be set.
But despite the U-turn, there was still no mention of working-age disabled people, even though they make up about a third of recipients of adult social care.
Disability consultant Jane Young said the manifesto demonstrates “ignorance of adult social care services”.
She said: “Anyone reading it would assume that only older people use social care services, when in reality one-third of social care service-users are disabled people of working age.
“We’re left completely in the dark as to how the proposals will affect disabled people, including those who’ve had their support reduced following the closure of the Independent Living Fund.
“While disabled people’s employment is mentioned elsewhere in the manifesto, there’s no acknowledgement of the role of social care in enabling many disabled people to work.
“All we have are questions: Will there be different arrangements for working-age service-users?
“How will the proposals affect disabled service-users with mortgages, or when they sell their home and buy another?
“Will adult social care be better funded, so it can enable independent living rather than mere existence?
“After decades of well-meaning reports, culminating in the Dilnot report and the Care Act 2014, we’re once again thrown into uncertainty.
“We expect more than a manifesto that conveniently ignores us.”
Sue Bott (pictured), deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said there was “no information at all about younger people” in the manifesto.
She said she believed that most of the public were unaware that younger disabled people had to pay for their social care.
She said the social care system was “grossly underfunded”, and that younger disabled people paid even more in charges than older people with care needs, who are allowed to keep more of their money through a much more generous minimum income guarantee.
Bott added: “If people realised how much people had to pay in charges, I think they would be pretty outraged. It wouldn’t fit in with the ‘scroungers and strivers’ narrative.
“The current situation [with charging] is completely unacceptable. It seems almost out of control.
“The [government] narrative is ‘we are supporting the people most in need’, but they are not, because what they are doing is giving with one hand and taking away with the other in the form of social care charges.”
Tom Hendrie, head of policy and communications for Cheshire Centre for Independent Living, said: “The whole social care debate seems to be skewed entirely towards older people.
“There are young people today who might need social care for the rest of their lives. How much are they going to pay?
“Does it mean that any working-age disabled person with their own home will never be able to save, for anything, until they hit the cap?”
He also raised concerns that the Tory plans now appeared to be treating recipients of social care in their own homes in the same way as those in residential care, when people who live independently in their own homes have extra costs to pay, such as food and utility bills and council tax.
Elements of the Tory policy on social care charging for older people are now similar to proposals that were included in the Care Act 2014 but were subsequently postponed until 2020.
But those proposals – which included a lifetime cap on charges of £72,000 for older people – would have meant that anyone who developed eligible care needs before the age of 25 would have paid nothing in charges for life.
They would also have meant that working-age disabled people who developed their care needs after 25 would have been left with a higher guaranteed minimum income than at present, after paying any care charges.
Asked why the manifesto makes no mention of the social care needs of working-age disabled people, a Conservative party spokeswoman said: “Our manifesto has committed to making sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care.
“We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay. And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family.”
Further details would be set out in a green paper.