It is a scandal that pensioners are being forced to pay local authorities for care that is supposed to be their right under the welfare state. People who are now in their seventies, eighties and nineties worked for as much as fifty years - from age 14 to 65 - paying tax and contributing to this country. When they started work their wages were probably £5 per week if they were lucky. Their holidays were two weeks per year. Many of them took part in the war and made sacrifices during the lean years of rationing and post-war austerity. Now they are told that they must pay again and pay through the nose just to get the basic care and attention anybody deserves in their old age.
Local authority care is means-tested and you only get it free if your entire assets are worth less than £23,000. Is that fair? Certainly not. Take the example of two brothers, who inherit a large house worth £400,000. One of them uses his share to buy a smaller house in the UK and lives there, working and paying income tax, council tax, stamp duty and VAT, without demanding anything from the state. The other takes his half of the money and goes to live in a sunny spot abroad, where he spends it all on girls, booze and cigarettes. He has a fine time, pays nothing into the British exchequer, and returns many years later in poor health, penniless, to the UK. Then he claims state benefits and is allocated a special flat for the over-55s. He gets free treatment on the National Health for the conditions he has acquired as a result of his chosen lifestyle. Now the two brothers are in their seventies, both single and in poor health, either of them could need council care. The one who was careful with his money will be forced to sell his house to foot the bill. The one who squandered his money will get free care.
Approximately 20,000 old people every year are forced to sell their houses to pay for local authority care. That does not even count those who are paying for private care.
The government has made a few feeble gestures of addressing this inequity - I am tempted to write iniquity. It set up the Dilnot Commission which was expected to put a cap on the maximum amount any pensioner would be expected to pay. If that maximum amount were £35,000 this would still be unfair on the prudent, hard-working and responsible people (castigated as "the rich" in socialist vocabulary). But now it is feared that the cap may be set as high as £75,000 per person. so a couple who both need care would have to spend a total of £150,000 - possibly the entire value of a house in many parts of the country. It is robbing them and it is robbing their children. UKIP policy is to abolish inheritance tax and let the children benefit from their parents' hard work and sacrifices. Even if we can't afford to do that immediately we could raise the IHT threshold to one million, so that nobody had to sell their house.
Meanwhile we pay £52 million per day to the EU, give NHS treatment to foreigners, and buy a mansion for the family of Abu Qatada (none of which is made up by the Daily Mail).
The cuts mean that a 97-year-old blind woman can be bullied and harrassed to pay for care in her final years. Mrs Elfrida Harper-Tarr of Turweston in Buckinghamshire ran the local Post Office there for fifty years. Now she is aged, frail and injured by a fall she needs to be looked after - and she will not get it free. Why? Because her house is supposedly worth £275,000. In fact it is impossible to sell because it is on the path of the infamous High-Speed-2 rail scheme which is planned to slice Buckingham in half and turn it from a pleasant quiet county into a rocket tunnel. So Mrs Harper-Tarr, stuck in a hospital bed with nowhere safe to go, is now worried sick because she does not know how she can pay her bills. This government wants to spend £33 BILLION on the HS2 scheme but will not stump up a few thousand so that those who worked can enjoy comfort and dignity in their final years.
Mrs Harper-Tarr's MP, John Bercow (the one who has such a resemblance to the Egyptian god Bes) thinks that the solution is for the government to hurry up and go through with the compulsory purchase of Mrs Harper-Tarr's home. His answer is to rob her a bit sooner and faster. Nobody should be forced to sell their home either for care or to make way for HS2. They are both plain theft.
Any politician who talks about "human rights" yet condones treating old people like this is a hypocrite. We have seen what Dave and Nick regard as human rights - votes for prisoners and messing up marriage. This country is in a vile mess.
Lenten Meditations: Saturday 25 March
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