Something must give – the question is when, how, and what?

By Leon A Smith
November 4, 2011

Once again we have read recently about further cuts in funding for older people. Where will this ever end? Of course I recognise that older people are not the only group that are being “cut”. One equally hears of cuts by local authorities for youth services and in some boroughs youth services have practically disintegrated.

One of the possible manifestations of discontent amongst younger people regarding cuts to benefits, services, etc would appear to be rioting! It is felt that one of the many reasons for rioting in the summer was discontent - the cuts in the educational allowance, lack of anything to do, resources, etc, etc. Understandably therefore lots of young people simply went out on the street, smashed windows of PC World, Carphone Warehouse and Currys and helped themselves to as much “loot” as they could carry.

Some older people do not have as much energy as some younger people and therefore rioting and looting is not really a very practical course of action for older people to express their dissatisfaction about what is happening around them. One often wonders what options there are for older members of the community to express their views on how they are being treated? One option of course is to use their vote as older people do. Yet which Party should they vote for? Which Party has got a clear, positive, sensible, policy on how to fund long term care of older people? The answer is none. Therefore if voting is purely on the grounds of policy towards older people – there is not going to be any real choice. In any case older people don’t normally vote as an homogenous lobby group and therefore the impact of their voting power is unlikely to be significant – ie they will simply vote across traditional Party lines and allegiances.

Writing to newspapers is a good way of expressing frustrations. It’s very interesting to read such letters. Quite what good it does is difficult to identify! Demonstrating in Parliament Square is also tricky. There are several reasons for this: First of all there are quite a lot of tents on the pavement around Parliament Square occupied by people who appear to be protesting against pretty much any of the ills in the world – unfortunately none of them is protesting against how older people are cared for (and it’s quite possible there wouldn’t be room on the pavement for anybody that did want to). The steps outside St Paul’s cathedral are already spoken for and there aren’t any steps and/or suitable areas to pitch tents either outside Western Marble Arch Synagogue or the West London Synagogue. It seems therefore that the options for older people to express their views politically are very restricted. In fact, I am not quite sure what they are!

One thing that older people do not have is time. Somebody who is due to come into a care home today or tomorrow is never going to benefit from the many changes that either this or future governments may possibly make to the current funding regime.

I have previously and repeatedly said in this blog that some change needs to happen now before a major problem really does become a crisis. People who need care are not always going to get it appropriately; there are people living at home in a high risk environment who will be far better off and much safer with a better quality of life if they were living in a care home.

The government is now talking vaguely about publishing a White Paper next spring to articulate its plans in relation to long term funding of older people. This may or may not happen. If it does happen there is every reason to believe that the excellent recommendations made in the recently published Dilnot Commission would be watered down to such an extent that they would be meaningless. There is therefore no end in sight for the solution of what appears to be an intractable problem.

This issue doesn’t only relate to the cost of physical care. It also relates to pensions where progress to finding solutions to that problem is equally slow. An ever increasing number of older people who are not working are going to need to be supported by a static or reducing number of people who are working and who are paying taxes. Something must give – the question is when, how, and what?


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