Older nation deserves honesty, if nothing else, from the Government
We are, all of us, growing older – inexorably and with certainty.
We may be fortunate, diligent, or both, and manage to enjoy good health and well-being as we age, but age we will. And one thing that people look for as they get older is certainty. Quite reasonably, we would argue, the older generation looks to the Government to provide that certainty.
Today, with this Government in particular, and particularly on the subject of financial security in old age – not least in terms of paying for the cost of care – our political masters offer only confusion.
Two short years ago, the much-trumpeted Dilnot report recommended that a cap should be placed on how much the elderly would have to pay for their care. In essence, the recommendation was this: a lifetime's individual contribution would not exceed £35,000 and the state would pick up the rest. The Government supported Lord Dilnot's suggestion and endorsed the principle he raised, but raised the cap significantly – although it is true that ministers later promised to ensure that pensioners with diminishing funds could defer care costs until their death.
Crucially, this week, the Labour peer Lord Lipsey has emerged to join the debate with worrying claims that, according to the fine print of the proposals, thousands of people will not qualify for the deferred scheme until they have run down their savings and assets to below £23,250.
Lord Lipsey makes serious allegations, that not only has the Government butchered Dilnot's blueprint, but that it has done it "in a back-door manner" that hid the truth from the public. This week, more than 200 peers demanded that the Government change the voluntary payment-deferral scheme to make it universal, but they were defeated in a vote in the Lords.
Whatever the nature of the final scheme that comes into effect, people need clarity. We all want to know how the state is able to help us as we grow older, if only to calculate what we need to do privately to guarantee our care. Any amount of dithering or secrecy leads to greater uncertainty about what the future holds. As we have reported through our Older Nation series of articles in recent weeks, Britain has an ever-expanding population of older people.
Whatever system we come up with – ideally one that places a greater reliance on private insurance – there has to be a debate about what is fair and what is affordable, and it has to be conducted both with realism and out in the open.