By Leon A Smith
December 13, 2010
None of us could have failed to notice the emotive debate accompanied by the violent protests in the Centre of London by those demonstrating against the university fee increases from £3,000 to £6,000 or £9,000 per year. These fees seem totally insignificant when compared to the cost of caring for an older person – which is likely to be many times that cost. Yet we see no crowds of senior citizens descending upon Whitehall or Parliament Square or no older people hurling their walking sticks or zimmerframes through windows of the Treasury; and above all no older people would deface a statue of Winston Churchill with graffiti. Obviously these acts of random violence in Central London are carried out by mindless thugs and hooligans – many of whom probably don’t know who Winston Churchill was!
The older generation certainly do. They have lived through a World War. They know what hardship is. Many of them have known poverty and hunger and tragedy in their lives – yet sill no demonstrations in the streets.
The costs of care for older people are sometimes payable by the individuals and sometimes payable by local authorities depending on the level of assets that the older person has. This might equally apply to care in the home and/or in a care home.
The current system of funding is extremely complex and even for those working in the sector, it can sometimes be very difficult to totally comprehend. It is confusing, irrational and in many cases unfair. When the Labour government came into power in 1997, as promised one of the first things that they did was set up a Royal Commission to look into the funding of the long term care of older people. When the Commission eventually reported, its content was largely ignored. Here we are in 2010 with a new government and another Commission (albeit not a Royal one!) has just been set up to look into funding. It’s likely that by next July this Commission will report.
Let us hope that on this occasion that the nettle will be grasped and that for better or for worse, a decision is taken to bring about change. The coalition government is bringing about change in many areas – one problem area which is not going to go away is the question of funding older people. The current system cannot be allowed to continue. We must hope that the government will have the courage to take fundamental decisions on this important matter. The number of older people in our society is only going to increase whereas it is unlikely that the number of people in paid employment is going to increase correspondingly. Clearly something somewhere has to give. What we need is a system that is transparent and equitable – if not the Metropolitan Police and the public in London may yet feel the wrath of the “baby boom” generation.