Elderly people in Birmingham have racked up at least £5.7 million in bills for the dementia tax.
And 300 of them have been forced to use the family home to pay what they owe.
That’s the number of people currently receiving social care who signed a deal with Birmingham City Council promising that their home will be sold to pay their debts, rather than being passed on to loved ones after they die.
The dementia tax was the name given to a flagship policy in the Conservative general election manifesto last year.
The idea was that people receiving care in their own home would be expected to use the value of their property to help pay the local council’s costs.
But the policy was so unpopular that Theresa May announced a U-turn, watering down the proposals, just days later.
After the election, it was quietly dropped.
But some elderly people already pay a dementia tax.
If you receive care in a residential setting, such as a care home, you’re already forced to use the value of any property you own to pay for it – if the total value of your assets (including your property) comes to more than £23,250.
And there aren’t many homes worth less than that.
In other words, if you receive care in your own home then your property is probably safe. You can pass the family home on to your children.
But if you have to go into a care home, then you might have to sell your property in order to pay the costs.
The local authority will help to pay the care home bills while you are still alive, but you’ll have to promise to repay the council by selling your home at some point in the future, or by letting the council get the proceeds of your property once you’re dead.
This is called a deferred payment agreement. There are currently 300 people in Birmingham with a deferred payment agreement, with a value of £5.7 million (research by my colleague Claire Miller has revealed).
There are all sorts of arguments about inheritance. You could argue it’s unfair that some people inherit expensive properties from their parents.
But the current arrangements aren’t fair either. If you’re lucky enough to enjoy good health until you die then you may be able to pass on an inheritance to your children, while if you need long-term care then the council might get your property.
And people cared for in a residential setting are treated differently to those receiving care in their own home.
There’s no fairness or consistency in that. It’s down to pot luck.
Politicians know they need to fix the way we pay for social care, and have been talking about it for decades.
But no government has so far had the courage to act.