University fees.......

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.


Armchair Quarterback

Wed, 12/15/2010 - 22:31

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Leon the question of university fees is not an isolated one.I am relatively young but old enough to have benefited from effectively free higher education at the point of " sale "

You are right the kids and the " the oldies " for the very first time are going to see themselves as being on the same side and the tories, the historical nasty party , and the lib dems, the newly identified nasty party are finished.

But what does that leave us with ? Who will lead us back to gentler times ? It's almost enough to turn one into a reluctant anarchist

Yehuda Erdman

Wed, 12/15/2010 - 23:52

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Leon A Smith
I agree 100% with your sentiments about the sad status of care for the elderly in this country, but fail to accept your dismissive attitude to the students' protests. Personally I am totally against violent protest on this issue, but must ask why you choose to combine and indeed juxtapose the two separate issues in one blog. I was a student in the 60s and 70s and was lucky enough to be able to work and study at the time by day release and evening classes, which made me financially independent and also able to support my young family. Ten years before that, University education was essentially free albeit only available to those who came from Public schools or Grammar schools. In the 50s it was very rare for even the brightest children from working families to be able to go to a University and in any case the percent of children who went on to higher education was a small fraction of what it is today.
Three of my own sons have benefitted from University education and will be be entering professions. They have substantial student loans but fortunately their employment prospects are good and they will be able to pay off the loans in a reasonable timescale.
Returning to your polemic article you do realise that the students of the 50's and 60's are todays pensioners? Furthermore today's students will themselves retire around 2050, and we are all engaged in the cycle of life.
If you look at the nitty gritty of the proposed increases in fees they are going to double or even treble, and predictably working families and even lower middle class families and their youngsters will be deterred from higher education. That does not affect the toffs who rule in the Conservative party as it did not even 50 years ago. BUT the pompous pronouncements of Cameron and his Ministers that they are going to ensure opportunity for ALL children just do not fit the facts of the increase in student fees. The Liberal Democrats stand condemned as abandoning all principles.


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