A beautiful morning; the roses are blooming, the row of lavender bushes is scenting the air and there is a shoal of fish on the surface of the shimmering pond. Even the hens are sitting around rather than doing their version of the great escape. So all is well in our world? Not quite. Since our average age is nudging a zillion, it is perhaps not surprising that we take more than a passing interest in the escalating problems surrounding the costs of care for ailing old ‘uns.
In a letter published this morning no fewer than 26 charities have demanded a joint political solution which brings “dignity and respect” to older people no longer able to care for themselves. They have timed this to coincide with the release of the report by Andrew Dilmot, the head of the independent Commission on the Future Funding of Care and Support. It will be officially released tomorrow and is expected to say that maximum costs of care should be capped at between £35,000 and £50,000 per person, or a third of the value of their assets – whichever is less. In other words no one will be expected to use up entirely savings accumulated over a lifetime, or to sell their home.
This is what happens now and it is seen by those who have been more thrifty as unfair. Once the individual has met their more limited financial obligations the state would take over payment but only at the basic rates for care set by local authorities. Those chosing a better quality care would have to meet the extra cost. Hopefully there will be proposals for more vigorous inspections of all homes to avoid a repetition of the scandalous abuse highlighted by the BBC recently.
The proposals are likely to be rather more complex that I am suggesting, and will undoubtedly be controversial. We shall have arguments about people who haven’t made any effort to provide for themselves and arguments about the role of the for-profit private sector. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that we all hope to live to grow old, and none of us wish to suffer a life-end nightmare. Apart from the super-rich we really are all in this together, hopefully the politicians will, just for once, put aside their point-scoring and come together for the common good.
In this regard yesterday brought some encouraging news. Ed Miliband made a dramatic offer to join in cross-party talks to reform the long term care of the elderly. He made it clear that he has no pre-conditions, no hidden agenda. Take politics out of the situation and expect real progress. Will Cameron accept the offer? He will want to but there will be pressures from his right wing which will argue that the poor deserve what they get. But he must ignore them in the same way that Miliband has presumably faced down his left wing who undoubtedly believe that the rich should pay for the rest. Neither group is worth listening to, the hope for a fair society depends on a realistic and honest approach.
We would all like the elderly to end their days in peace, free of financial worries. But that is impossible unless we change the game and use every option, including insurance. We are all living longer and there is a limit to the amount of tax those still young enough to work can pay.
So for the first time since World War 2 we need a non-political approach, a coming together in common cause, a pooling of ideas. Will it happen? The ball is in Cameron’s court. We all need him to put country before Party. All? Yes, all. You may be congratulating yourself on not being elderly. Believe me, you will be before you can say zimmer-frame. Time has a nasty habit of passing quickly!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Tennis 2. Heart 3. Chris Tarrant 4. Australia 5. Frog 6. Dingle 7. Rot away 8. Five 9. Ten 10. Aberdeen