Star comment: Cost of care won’t go away
Each and every day a political solution is found to deal with the ticking time bomb which is the question of how Britain will care for the elderly in the future.
The solution is to talk about something – anything – else.
There is a political incentive not to address the issue and to let it drag, a future problem for somebody else to deal with when the time comes.
During the General Election campaign Theresa May thought she was so far ahead in the polls that she could have a go at making a policy initiative in this area.
She unveiled a plan in which more elderly people would have to pay for their own social care. Leaders, said Mrs May, had a responsibility to be “straight with the people about the challenges ahead”.
She quickly had cause to regret “being straight with the people” as there was uproar causing her to backtrack rapidly. But the damage to the Tories’ electoral hopes was done.
It is predicted that in Shropshire, within the next five years the county will need 5,131 care home beds to meet demand, but that there will in fact be just 4,377, leaving a massive shortfall.
This unfolding of a crisis is being played out across the country. It is not that there are no warning voices. There are, and have been for some time now. This is an issue which is not going to go away. In fact, everybody can see it approaching like a tidal wave about to crash on the beach.
One solution is for today’s younger generation to look after tomorrow’s older generation, as has often been the case when a grandparent has begun to fail and they have been cared for by a son or daughter, with all the sacrifices that involves. It is cheap for the state and is a heavy commitment for the child. But, with the changing of family dynamics, will they still be prepared to act as carers?
Society has to prepare for a rising army of older people who will need looking after by the state, which means finding a way to pay for it – the expense is already huge.
Even a redefinition of what constitutes being old, so that people who would have been considered old by the standards of yesteryear and now considered to be of working age, will not paper over the cracks.
Serious strategic planning has to start now.
Not to do so is unfair not just on the old, but on the young who will have the task of dealing with it and paying to sort it out.