Letters: Who pays the bill for elderly care?


Your article "Affordable old age: U-turn on money for elderly care" (16 August) will raise a cheer in many quarters, but it generates a huge challenge for local authority social care departments.

The draft Care and Support Bill was a missed opportunity and the absence of a quantified cap on the lifetime cost of care for older people was particularly criticised. The Government now appears to have changed its mind, agreeing with the Dilnot Commission that a cap of £35,000 should be imposed.

Crucially, the current means-tested threshold of £23,350 used by local authorities to determine if an individual with eligible needs has the resources to pay for their own care will be increased. Your article suggests that any person with assets up to £100,000 could expect to receive funded support. The result is that hundreds of thousands of people who previously made their own arrangements for social care will be entitled to public funding.

This presents two problems for local authorities: first, the capacity to deal with the extra volume of contacts must be put in place. This will bring additional costs. Second, once an individual passes the threshold for funded care, the tap is turned on and expenditure on care services inevitably follows. Will the £2bn of extra funding the Dilnot U-turn requires really be sufficient to pay for this potential surge of spending?

The changes may not be implemented until 2017, but council treasurers will have their calculators out today, as this new development could well be more costly than has been suggested.

Steve Carefull

PA Consulting Group

London SW1

I was encouraged to read that the Government has finally – if tentatively – put its support behind the Dilnot proposals. The decision to push for a cap on individual care costs is an encouraging first step towards transforming the care sector for future generations. However, there is a huge amount still to be done.

To aim to have the plans in action "as early" as 2017 displays a fundamental lack of ambition, and lets down the thousands of people who will have to sell their homes in the next five years. There is also still the issue of "hotel costs" to deal with, to cover general housing costs, which are likely to be at least £10,000 per year on top of the capped amount. Perhaps most seriously, it seems that the Treasury is still sceptical about the costs involved, and I have serious concerns that budgetary limitations will lead this to be dropped.

We must take heart from this latest move by the Government, but unfortunately the number of broken promises I've seen during the almost 40 years I've worked in the social care sector mean I have no choice but to say: "I'll believe it when I see it."

Leon Smith

Chief Executive, Nightingale Hammerson

London SW12

Wayfarer on a bike faces rural mayhem

I escaped the Olympics by cycling in the country, planning my routes and destinations in advance to avoid A-roads, but I quickly discovered that minor roads and designated cycle routes are no less dangerous.

Motorists, far from speed cameras and police, feel free to race as impetuously as they like, forcing cyclists on to loose chippings, up verges and down ditches. Like Judy Russell (letter, 15 August) I cycled on the pavements in the open country, and with less and less conscience. Over 18 days, travelling 260 miles in seven shires, I encountered but one pedestrian between villages.

In rural districts no one seems to walk. They whizz around in cars at 70mph, frightening the living daylights out of cyclists. But even the pavements had their hazards. Because so few use them, there is no call on local councils to cut back the invasive hedges and brambles which often make them impassable and obscure the road signs.

I returned to the familiar safety of London bearing the scars of England's green and pleasant land.

Peter Forster

London N4

Much has been said by politicians linking the Olympic legacy to the physical fitness of the nation. One of the most accessible physical activities is cycling. It is aerobically excellent, symmetrical and impact-free (which is why I reverted to cycling this year after more than 20 years of road-running).

But cycling is one of the highest-risk activities. Cyclists are under extreme threat from inconsiderate drivers, appalling road surfaces in England (not in Scotland or Wales) and brainless road geometry such as token cycle lanes that run out just as the road becomes hazardous and traffic islands which limit road space to less than the width needed for a vehicle to pass a bicycle.

These issues must be addressed. Draconian action against any driver involved in a contretemps with a cyclist (as in France, where one feels safe on a bike) should be enforced. Road geometry should be supervised by people who have some empathy with cycling.

I am not prepared to spend hours on a static bicycle so I will continue to risk my life. But David Cameron should be very careful before he encourages people to put themselves in harm's way.

David Bracey

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

J Russell (letter, 15 August) wants a network of off-road cycle paths. Our council has established good ones after listening to cycle groups who argued that the paths would be used by people in their daily activities.

Yet I am nearly alone when I cycle in safety on them, without a helmet. The "true" cyclists stick to the main roads in their impressive regalia to assert that they have rights equal to lorries, buses etc.

G D Morris

Port Talbot

Super-weeds take over

R F Stearn (letter, 11 August) claims that growing Roundup-ready GM oilseed rape allows him to use less weedkiller, and thus produce his crop more cheaply.

Experience on the American continent has been that within a few years, weeds tend to become resistant to Roundup (active ingredient, glyphosate). Farmers then often use more glyphosate to try to control the resistant weeds, before having to resort to a cocktail of herbicides, in time increasing the overall use of weedkillers and therefore cost. Many farmers end up having to pull the weeds out by hand. In Georgia, many thousands of acres of farmland have had to be abandoned, overrun with glyphosate-resistant pigweed.

Elizabeth York


US Sikhs need to be more visible

It is no surprise that the US administration is making every conceivable attempt to project the recent attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin as an isolated event, perpetrated by a deranged white supremacist ("Temple gunman had ties with white supremacists", 8 August). What better way to divert the attention of the US Sikhs from the administration's failure to protect them than to hold a lone maniac responsible for the temple outrage.

But US Sikhs too must accept a part of the blame if Americans continue to mistake them for Muslims or the Taliban. Such misreading of Sikh identity can rarely happen in Britain. This is not because the British Sikhs had been more forthright in projecting their religious identity in this country, but because Britain's Victorian scholars did all the work for them.

It was the Victorians who introduced Sikhism to Britain in the late 19th century, and it was they who prepared the first English translation of their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.

Since the US has had no such historical links with India or the Sikhs, it is up to the US Sikhs to fill the gap, and make the American public aware of the distinctive nature of their faith.

Integration and acceptance, as Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, once said, is a two-way process.

Randhir Singh Bains

Gants Hill, Essex

Is it all right to order a coffee?

In the past couple of years, the greeting of "Y'alright?" (or however it's spelt) seems to have become common in some shops and coffee bars. I'm curious how other people respond because I'm not sure what is behind the question.

Is it a new form of "How are you?", in which case I can reply that I'm well, reciprocate the question and leave it to the other person to move on to asking what I would like to order? Perhaps it is being used to request my order, but if so it feels slightly rude to launch straight in.

Yesterday I had to wait a minute or so in a coffee shop because all the servers were involved in other jobs. One of them turned, saw me, and asked if I was all right. I took this to mean had someone else already taken my order, so replied "Yes, but I haven't ordered yet." She looked confused.

So, if there is any one out there who asks this: please, what is the question?

Catriona Wheeler


A brutalist eyesore

The word "brutalist" tells us all we need to know about Birmingham Central Library, which was an eyesore when it was built and has been so ever since (letters, 15 August). Attempts to humanise it by the creation of the optimistically named Paradise Forum serve only to highlight that we have spent the last 38 years making the best of a bad job.

Like many people, I long to see it replaced with something that will complement the classical splendour of the Town Hall, Council House and Gas Hall, and that will provide a suitable backdrop to the tipping point between the entertainment and business areas of the city centre.

While your correspondents may be friends of the Central Library, they are no friends of Birmingham.

Ian Richards


Welcome insults

Fiona Sturges (The Week in Radio, 16 August) describes me as "still smarting from [my] Newsnight run-in with Russell Brand". Why would I be "smarting"? I enjoyed every second of it. Mr Brand's reason-free and factless harangues, spiced with personal insults, help the cause of anyone he attacks.

Peter Hitchens

London W8

Too easy

I suppose that, as is usual in mid-August, we'll be hearing the cynics claiming that good A-level results merely mean that exams have got easier in recent years. By that logic, does Britain's recent gold medal success simply mean that the Olympics have got easier since four years ago?

Pete Dorey


Don't fix it

The wonderful and glorious London Olympics have certainly laid waste to the lie of "Broken Britain" put about by the Prime Minister. We – Team GB, Britain – are not broken: we may have a bankrupt government, we may be broke, but we are most definitely not broken.

Tom Palin

Southport, Merseyside

Verbal slip

Richard Humble (letter, 15 August) decries the use of Olympic noun-verbs such as "medal". Did he also spot the mountain-biker who "gridded" on the way to "podium"? Couldn't make it up – or "fiction" it.

Peter Brook

Malvern, Worcestershire