Mrs May’s flip flopping on adult social care highlights the tensions in our political and social system
Britain is ageing and we are now living longer so there is a problem looking after us and no account has been taken of this fact by politicians who reflecting the demands of various lobby groups keep us alive for longer but largely unhealthier. We are fatter and have chronic conditions such as diabetes. In the past, we would smoke and die prematurely, we would have heart attacks and die prematurely. We would die before we suffered from dementia. Today we are capable of being kept alive long beyond the point at which we are able to maintain ourselves, and we become a burden. We become a burden on someone the issue is on whom should we become that burden.
Mrs May was trying to ensure that on behalf of the taxpayer she got some of the costs of adult social care back by getting homeowners and those with an estate to contribute to their care post-mortem so to speak. The amount one could pass on to relatives was raised to £100,000 but there was no cap so a person in need of expensive care could see all but £100,000 of their estate being gobbled up in care costs. The furore seemed to take her and the Tories by surprise. However, it shouldn’t have done. Like student debt, the policy is intended to relieve the state of a financial burden but in passing the cost on to the person in need, it becomes a case of letting the state off the hook whilst over one generation removing an element of financial support for the next generation, which in turn burdens the taxpayer at a later date. A cap on the amount the state would expect the individual to pay quickly followed.
The reason we are concerned about this whole situation is that it reveals how the state is enthusiastic to withdraw funding and therefore responsibility for social support, (as it has done with higher education another related issue here too) a responsibility that it has taken on relentlessly since the end of the war. It has altered Britain, changed the nature of the family and now finds itself unable to discharge its responsibilities. As the state withdraws so it is the poorer end of society that suffers. Without the capping, and perhaps even with the cap, within one generation, there will be fewer elderly people wealthy enough to make a contribution as their inheritance would have been spent on their parent’s social care. We thus create a pauper class over time. This is intolerable but would be understandable if the state itself didn’t squander millions on maintaining its own antiquated structures.
Before the state pulls out of paying for essential services it should look at how it can reconfigure itself so it uses modern technology to eradicate ‘top salaries’ and develops alternative ways of delivering essential services at a reduced cost to the taxpayer. Our programme is the only programme, contained within our manifesto, that offers this approach as opposed to the approach of other parties which is simply to tax more or pass on costs to those in most need but who are least able to pay as the poorest get it free anyway.