Mark Steel: Do the elderly need a £14m bonus as well as pudding?


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Almost everyone connected to the elderly or care homes has insisted the Government addresses the issue of the lack of care homes. So the Government has agreed to look into it. One possible cause they might find, if they investigate thoroughly and consult enough people, analysing everything with great care, is that they've cut the number of care homes.

Obviously the Government couldn't know in advance that reducing the number of something might result in there being less of them. But as they're now setting up a group to look into this matter, I suggest the person put in charge is Tina Taylor from Bolton.

Because in Bolton the council cut its budget for services by £40m, and decided its last two care homes should be closed. This was part of the cuts that apparently have to take place, so it's only fair the people who should make the biggest sacrifices are 85-year-olds in care homes. Because we all know it was them who caused this mess. For years, when the staff asked them, "What would you like for dinner, dear?", they'd say, "shepherd's pie, banana and custard, and a £14m bonus please love", with not a thought for how this might bankrupt the eurozone.

Bolton Council said they were looking at whether private homes were more "efficient". Maybe by "efficient" they mean every day, on the button, the residents are left face down in a bowl of soup for nine hours, not like some of these inefficient places where some days it happens and other days it doesn't and they're left all confused.

The problem for Bolton Council was that Tina Taylor's husband, Ken, was in one of the threatened homes, suffering from Alzheimer's, and she was determined he wouldn't have to go through the distress of being moved. So she collected thousands of signatures on a petition, organised public meetings and demonstrations, won the backing of the unions, put her case in the press so eloquently and frequently that she became a local celebrity and made such a magnificent fuss that the council backed down and announced it would keep at least one home open.

Tina Taylor seemed to prove that the way to preserve services is for so many people to oppose them being cut that the council decides it's less hassle to keep them open.

And if we don't resist cuts to care for Alzheimer's patients, it won't be long before the Government announces that not only should they have to pay for their treatment, but they should pay twice, as they'll have forgotten they paid the first time, and such measures are essential given the scale of the deficit.

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