I am a councillor in Southport. The last time I looked we were the constituency with the 8th highest concentration of pensioners. Regularly people turn up to our surgery asking about how they pay for social care for their relatives. John Pugh's offices deal with many more enquiries. The system is broken. It is confusing. The information is of poor quality and often wrong. The criteria for who qualifies is unnecessarily complex as local authorities struggle to balance their budget by rationing care. Some of the most heart rendering interviews I have conducted are with elderly folk in frightened about whether they can afford to continue to pay for their loved one who is at present in a home which is putting its prices up (to balance their own books). They face having to move their relative to a strange and less appropriate home.
Andrew Dilnot writing in the Times this morning claims this is one of the major area of financial risk for which you cannot plan. Many of the people I seek to help are not affluent. They have saved, often from modest incomes, for their old age. Their thrift throughout life seems to be penalised. Care costs can run into fabulous amounts well in excess of their resources. It is not just the person in care whose life is blighted it is their relatives-often elderly themselves-who dare not spend money on holidays, heating, re-decoration or on any of the things that may enrich their lives for fear that they may not have enough money to pay the care bills. The first casualty is their dignity.
For thirteen years Labour ran away from this problem. It was buried. The situation is now a national emergency.
When Lloyd George introduced the Old Age Pension there were less than 100,000 people over 85 years old. Today there 1,500,000.
Dilnot makes some proposals that will cap the individual liability. We await the details. He implies that insurance products could be developed to bridge the gap so that individuals could plan. In past generations the thrifty artisans would have used their friendly societies to produce a product to deal with this situation. Thatcher and the selling off those institutions has robbed us of a trusted network of mutually owned financial bodies that put serving their members first. All that we are left with are the shysters in the City whose first duty is make as bigger and quickest profits for the share holders. If insurance is to be an acceptable way of funding the individuals contribution to social care then we need acceptable financial institutions. So Vince, when we deal with the banks please return a goodly part of the high street banks to mutual ownership by breaking the nationalised banks and forming regionally based mutual banks.
In the meantime Dinot still requires £2billion extra of public money to fund his scheme. Lib Dem should without equivocation back the scheme and pledge to fill the funding gap by scrapping Trident