Meeting need or chasing votes?
By JEF SMITH
It’s been a long time coming but suddenly older people are politically fashionable. When, 12 years ago, the Labour Party came to power with a commitment to address the issue of the funding of elderly care, the Royal Commission charged with the task recommended that social services, like the health service, should be substantially free for everyone needing them. The proposal, however, was swiftly rejected by the Government, on grounds of both fairness and affordability.
The policy of free social care services was subsequently implemented by the devolved Scottish administration, but in England over the next 10 years the argument that this arrangement benefits only relatively well-off older people was persistently used to rule out change. Indeed when the Green Paper on funding social care was published in July, the free – that is, tax-financed – option was explicitly rejected ‘because it places a heavy burden on people of working age’.
PM pre-empts debate