Gale`s View – 18th July 2012
For far too long people who have worked and paid taxes throughout their lives, acted responsibly, saved prudently and invested in modest home-ownership have found themselves, nearing the end of life, having to sell those homes to pay for residential or nursing care.
At the same time others, who have chosen to spend their money and to live in rented social housing have had similar late-in-life care provided entirely at the expense of today`s taxpayers.
Nobody that I know is suggesting other than that the care of the elderly is not important or necessary but it is iniquitous that one group of people should see the reward of their thrift and endeavour, that they might wish to pass on to children or grandchildren, eroded while others, sometimes less thrifty or spendthrift, have a free ride.
Peter Lilley, then Secretary of State for Social affairs for the Conservative government, was on the point of addressing this when Labour took office in 1997.   In the intervening years no real progress has been made and the situation remains unjust and unresolved.
At last, however, there is a glimmer of light.  In a White Paper published just before the House rose for the summer recess, the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, has set out proposals for a range of policies relating to care and support that, when implemented, will make a very real difference to the lives of elderly people and their carers.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Lansley has set out measures to give service users, carers and families peace of mind. £200 million of investment in specialised housing for older and disabled people, a recognition of the rights of carers and, for the first time, a clear entitlement to the support that they need to maintain their own health, an enhancement of palliative services, a smooth and seamless transition for disabled young people from children`s to adult care, all give the Secretary of State the right to claim that his proposals, based upon the Dilnot Report commissioned by the coalition government, represent “the greatest transformation of the care and support system since 1948”.
But the thorny issue of exactly how much a person may be required to pay for residential or nursing care remains to be dealt with and will not be satisfactorily resolved until the next Government Spending Review.  That matters, because until a “cap” on funding is determined the insurance market cannot offer product to allow people to insure against the costs of late-in-life care and uncert6ainty will persist.
The Labour Opposition has described the White Paper as “half a plan”. Given that over all of their years in office they did nothing to address this issue that is more than a bit rich.  Nevertheless, there are very many people in Thanet and in Herne Bay, who will not only hope but expect that, in addition to the very welcome measures that can begin to be implemented straight away, the funding issue, even in these tight financial circumstances, will now be seriously addressed.
Of course, had the coalition not bowed to pressure and postponed the planned fuel duty increase the additional funding raised would have been sufficient to pay for a great deal of care and support.  As I said at the time, if we deny the Treasury the revenue then some very desirable programmes are going to have to give.  As those who were in government between 1997 and 2010 are now having to recognise, something for nothing is not an option.

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