Saturday, 3 October 2009

Free Care for the Elderly: If You Can Afford It

So the Tories have announced their plan to provide free care for the elderly. Right after Labour have announced theirs to cover only those who most need it, the Conservatives announce theirs for those who can afford it, or at least an £8,000 insurance premium paid when you retire. The idea so they say is to prevent people having to sell their home to go into residential care.

I have an issue with that, many of the poorest members of our society don't have savings of £8,000 pounds. If they are lucky that money is tied up in their work pension scheme and not gathering investment in a bank.

One of my own grandmothers owned her own two up two down terrace but as a widow of nearly over 17 years when she hit 65 she didn't have £8,000 stored away. When she was in her 80's she finally could no longer look after herself at home and had to sell up. My other Grandparents were in the fortunate end of things financially, but she still needed specialist care for Alzheimer's in her later years. Obviously the family would have benefited in the later case from the protection of the estate but would not have been able to in the former.

The Tories are saying this system is voluntary. Well of course it is not everyone is going to be able to afford it as pointed out above. The people who will benefit from it are those at the top end. Families of the lower income end of things are still going to have to sell that home and plough the proceeds into paying for that care.

I was watching Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley earlier on the BBC and two comments really grated with me. The first was when he called this system a genuine insurance system. We may have a regressive tax system called National Insurance, but there is a hint in the name of that taxation. It is the system that the nations employee's all pay into according to their wages in order to benefit from through health, care and pension provision. While the poorer do pay disproportionately more, it does in theory provide equal access to service. The Tories proposals will be providing a two-tier system with the wealthy being the beneficiaries.

The second thing that grated was that although everyone joining at 65 would be able too irrespective of medical condition, the Tories will be extending the scheme for a limited time to anyone over that age. However, if there is any condition that may necessitate you needing residential care currently present and you are over 65 you will be excluded. Not only are the Tories creating an obstacle to enter the scheme based on wealth but they are also creating barriers based on health.

We all can see just who the caring Tories are caring for. Their own wealthy supporters not those on the lowest incomes. Personally I'm glad that the Lib Dems made sure that universal health care at home is provided in Scotland, and have it as policy to extend to the rest of the UK.

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