By Caring Times editor Geoff Hodgson
Party conference fringe meetings tend to be fertile and futile in equal measure. On the one hand they encourage politicians to stretch atrophied imaginations and on the other, their “I have a dream!” pronouncements almost never gain the currency of mainstream party debate, let alone become planks in policy platforms.
So we shouldn’t take too much umbrage at recent statements made by secretary of state for business, innovation and skills Sajid Javid and health secretary Jeremy Hunt at a couple of meetings held on the periphery of the recent Conservative Party conference. Both of them offered arguments as to why British families should care for their elderly relatives in their own homes, rather than pay for them to move to care homes, with Mr Javid saying more families should consider putting up parents or grandparents in their spare rooms to ease the crisis in old age care and boost family life. Mr Hunt agreed, saying families would have to make space for grandparents because there was not enough room in care homes because, over the next four years, we would need 37,000 more care home beds than we have now.
Now I’m all for extended family households (although I suspect I’m in a minority) but Messrs Javid & Hunt are proposing social re-engineering on a grand scale here. People are living much longer than they did in the 1950s when it was common for Nan’s daybed to be a fixture in the living room, and their care needs are that much higher. Who’s going to provide the care? Are we going to restucture the housing market so as to do away with the need for double income households?
Pronouncements of this sort do lead me to wonder, though, if we are being softened-up for a further distancing by government from social care for elderly people. When senior politicians talk like this, it begins to sound like a tacit admission that the good times are over and that increasingly scarce resources mean living standards are going to have to drop, particularly if those of the wealthy are going to be maintained.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.