Leading article: The depressing politics of elderly care

Share
Related Topics

An attempt to forge a cross-party consensus on care for elderly people in England disintegrated this week. A government Green Paper on the subject last year floated various ideas for extending care. And one of the options for paying for such an extension was a compulsory levy on estates after death.

This week the Conservatives launched an attack on Labour's "death tax" in a new poster campaign. Labour and the Liberal Democrats accused the Tories of breaking the consensus. But the Conservatives deny there was never an agreement – and claim a report that Labour was preparing to back the compulsory levy in its manifesto justified their intervention.

Leaving aside the finger pointing, it is interesting that there were cross-party talks on this subject in the first place. All three parties clearly sensed they were vulnerable on social care. The present means-tested care system is deeply unpopular, especially the requirement for some elderly people to sell their homes to pay for care. And local councils – controlled by all three parties – have been tightening the qualification threshold.

Yet politics as usual has reasserted itself. The Conservatives' suggested alternative are incentives for voluntary insurance in the form of a one-off, up-front, payment of about £8,000 at age 65. They suggest this would cover individuals if they need residential care later on in life. But the cost projections for this are dubious. And they do not say what would happen to the uninsured.

There is no reason why care for elderly people should be exempt from the usual partisan battles. After all, with our society rapidly ageing, this is one of the most important issues facing this country. The overall cost of elderly care is projected to double in the next two decades. Dealing with this challenge equitably is surely the very essence of politics.

Yet it is more than a decade since a Royal Commission, headed by Sir Stewart Sutherland, laid out the urgent need for decisive political leadership on long-term social care for elderly people. What is so depressing about this latest squabble is not the breakdown of cross-party consensus, but the fact that all the various policies on the table are still so flaky.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on