Peter Beresford: It doesn't help society to think of older people as a burden

Share
Related Topics

To understand current social care and to plan for the future, we must first understand the past. This is a journey through war and peace, because it takes us back to the war that gave rise to the welfare state, the Second World War.

We have now reached an age when there is a much larger proportion and number of old and very old people in our society. Now many more people are able to live long enough not only to see and be part of the lives of their grandchildren, but also of their great grandchildren. But this has been presented in the Government's Green Paper on future social care funding as a negative. They have been constructed as a burden.

The Green Paper rejects the idea of paying for social care out of general taxation so that it is a free and universal service, saying that "this is ruled out because it places a heavy burden on people of working age". Thus older people are a burden. That is how we must think of them – and indeed of service users of working age too – a burden. Policymakers have talked about them in terms of an epidemic of Alzheimer's and dementia, an avalanche of dependency and need. How does this fit with current rhetoric of dignity, choice and control?

The truth is that this emphasis on negativity, this refusal to recognise the contribution older people make to our society, to acknowledge their rights and entitlements, is the real problem. It actually demonstrates a reluctance to face up to fundamental change in our society which we must address rather than seek to reject or deny.

Put simply we must now expect many more people living in an advanced western society will now need support. This is likely to be the global pattern for the future. It is no accident that leaders of two of our main political parties have both had disabled children, as the Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation observed to me. Societies must learn to include age and impairment as parts of the whole with growing importance.

Masquerading as a new realism is an unevidenced narrow individualistic economics rooted in the kind of selfishness that people recently highlighted to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as what they saw as one of the new social evils of our age.



Taken from the inaugural Sir William Beveridge Foundation lecture, given at the Institution of Civil Engineers by the professor of social policy at Brunel University

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Queen spoke of respect for all cultures and faiths in her Christmas message  

Decoding the Queen's speech: Was Her Majesty taking a swipe at Ukip?

Jane Merrick
Iraqi soldiers trained by the US were routed by IS’s smaller force  

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

Patrick Cockburn
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015