Care of our elderly – A long term crisis for which we should all be ashamed


Leaflets like these drawing attention to the Tories ‘Dementia Tax’ will be going out across Liverpool in the run up to the election

Some people seem surprised that we now have major health and social care problems for the elderly. They shouldn’t be. We have known two things for 30+ years:

  1. That people were living longer; and
  2. That did not mean that people were living healthier.

The gap in both finance and expectations has been growing for 30 years as successive governments put pensions, social care and long-term health problems in the ‘too difficult to deal with’ box and shoved it to one side with a succession of reports and commissions and reviews.

As examples of this we can clearly see that:

  1. For 25 years up to 2010, when the triple lock was introduced, under both Labour and Tory Governments the state pension fell increasingly behind earnings.
  2. For the past 10 years the number of social care places has been reduced whilst the number of people needing places has increased.
  3. Many women have been caught out at relatively short notice, in pension terms, by an increase of the age at which state pension would be made available.
  4. Many pension fund providers in both the public and private sectors stopped putting money into their pensions between 1990 and 2007 on the expectation of continually rising asset prices.
  5. Interest rates have been drastically been brought down which has affected badly the bond yield prices on which annuities are made for pension purposes.

Now both Tory and Labour Parties intend to make things worse:

The Tories are determined to introduce what can only be described as a Dementia Tax. The concept of a reasonable cap on people contributing to their health care in old age has been dropped. This was always a bit of a lottery but a cap which says the state will pay if care costs pass £60,000 saved a lot of public money whilst keeping people’s own personal assets secure. Now the Tories will remove the cap and you will pay everything over £100,000.

As the pirates used to say, “Them as’ll die will be the lucky ones”. If you drop dead overnight, as most of us hope to, then our finances will be intact for our loved ones. If we die a slower death from dementia or other long-term maladies, as most of us do, we can lose the lot.

Labour should know better. After bleating on for the past 7 years about austerity hitting the poor they are refusing to reinstate 75% of the cuts in benefits that the Tories are proposing up to 2020. This hits two categories of people disproportionately – the elderly and parents with young children. They have produced back of the fag packet calculations on money for the NHS which does not even begin to understand the complex changes that are required in the health and care sector.

So as you would expect me to say Lib Dems would do things very differently. We will:

  1. Put another £6.1 billion into health and social care on actions which will get people out of hospital more quickly and into better local, neighbourhood facilities if not, and this is the ultimate goal, back into their own home. If we want good health and social care we have to pay for it.
  2. We will preserve the triple lock on pensions. Not only is this the right thing to do for the elderly but it reduces the pressures on their families and puts money back into local communities.
  3. We will guarantee the introduction of a cap on individual social care expenditure of around £70,000 to enable all of us to plan effectively for our old age.
  4. Scale back the changes in women’s pensions to give women more time to plan for a later retirement age.
  5. Remove the blocks on immigration which are causing people from other countries in the health and social care sectors to consider going home early or preventing them from coming to look after us in the first place.

These policies are important but it is the principles behind them that count. Liberal Democrats believe that every citizen young or old has the right to live in an adequate home that is warm, secure and in a decent neighbourhood and with the best possible health outcomes that are available. This should not be the dream of a distant utopia but the reality of the present day UK. The fact that it is not should be a source of shame for all legislators over the past 30 years. We cannot rewrite the past but we can write a better future for the elderly whose numbers will be added to next January when I too hit the state pension age!

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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