This blog is a follow on from “Conspiracy of Silence” (click on the ARCHIVE, 18th May 2012).
Having remained silent for months on the deepening crisis in elderly care, there is a sudden outcry after the local elections have taken place. All over the country Social Services are having to increase charges for domiciliary care, reduce grants to the voluntary sector and severely ration funds for residential care.
With completely inept timing, a few days after the elections are over, 78 charities, including Age UK, SAGA and the Local Government Association, publish an open letter to the Prime Minister, aimed at putting pressure on the Government to transform care of the elderly. The self-appointed newspaper champion of the elderly – The Daily Mail – gave it front page coverage under the banner of its “Dignity for the Elderly” campaign.
This must be one of the longest and least listened to campaigns in recent history but it is no doubt, good for circulation and more stair lift advertising revenue. Meanwhile, the politicians are too full of self-pity about their loss of support in the local elections to concern themselves about the plight of older people.
The charities undoubtedly feel good about belatedly raising the profile of the issue but they offer no new solutions. They just keep banging on the drum for money, when they must know that in this time of Government austerity, there is little chance of success. Their wholehearted support for the recommendations of the Dilnot report, requires an additional £1.7 billion of state funding and flies in the face of all the recent Government pronouncements about the economy.
They call on the Prime Minister to show “vision and courage” when they demonstrate none themselves. They know that the majority of older people are home owners who are sitting in housing assets which are worth trillions of pounds. These assets could be used to leverage high quality care and support for older people, but first, leaders in the voluntary sector need to be honest with the elderly and tell them they should no longer expect the state to fund their care. They should also tell them to put their own well-being ahead of leaving a legacy to their grown up children. This is not a message that the elderly will welcome, but it is the reality of later life, brought about not only by the economic crisis, but also by the ageing population.
Few politicians of any political persuasion, will face up to this unpalatable news, hence the prevarication about the Dilnot report. That is precisely why the lead had to come from the charity sector and Age UK in particular. To continue to call for more Government money and to encourage asset wealthy older people to think they can keep all their legacy, will only prolong the current paralysis of policy.
The new vision and radical change of thinking, needs to come from the voluntary sector. The wealthiest older people paying for themselves will allow the limited Government funding to be used for those with no assets.
This is a tough uncompromising message, but one which this older generation will face up to if only the truth is told. Giving them false hope that they can hang on to everything is disingenuous, when the demographic facts are plain to see. It may make the voluntary sector feel good to be constantly campaigning for worthy causes but forthright and honest discussion is better.
Age UK already promotes equity release, they should encourage it as a major strategy for facilitating better lives for older people. They could also champion long-term care insurance ahead of any decision being made on the Dilnot report.
The Local Government Association could lead a movement at local level for a large expansion of retirement housing by easing planning restrictions. If the elderly downsize, it releases equity to support better later life and puts family houses back into the market.