06 June 2011

Keeping the Welfare Wolf from the door

The tiny amount of public spending committed to the elderly – 5.8 per cent of national income compared to 11.7 per cent in Italy – is a key reason behind the scandal of tens of thousands of people having to sell their homes every year to pay for their residential care.

Other countries fund care home fees through taxes or national insurance systems, meaning care is available when people need it. The report warns that our low spending rate has also led to an enormous burden on family members, who are left having to take on roles as unpaid carers because the state does not step in.

And it means thousands of pensioners are isolated in their own houses because not enough home helps, meals on wheels services and day centres are available. ...

The £16billion we spend each year includes funding for day centres, residential care home fees, meals on wheels and home helps who assist with eating, dressing, going to the toilet, washing, domestic cleaning and shopping. (Daily Mail, 6 June 2011)

I made the efforts I did over a period of fifty years to make sure that I and any associate of mine made voluntary contributions to the state pension, only because this seemed to be a way of getting an income as of right, since I knew I was not, and would never be, eligible for any state ‘benefit’, such as income support.

Now I find that everyone is advocating, not restoring the non-means-tested part of the state pension to something like adequacy, but providing more ‘home helps, meals on wheels services and day centres’ (ibid.) – all ‘benefits’ which I and anyone associated with me would never take up.

‘The shocking betrayal of the elderly’ (supposedly consisting not in the reduction and means-testing of pensions, but in the failure to provide ‘benefits’ to those who will tolerate them) is ‘revealed in a damning report’ by the over-50s group Saga, the Director General of which is Ros Altmann, who has never (so far as I can make out) shown any concern about retrospective legislation.

The report, Take Care, was compiled for Saga by the think tank 2020 Health, which analysed OECD figures.

These figures show how generations of British politicians have betrayed our increasingly ageing population and have failed to fund properly the care so many of them will clearly need,’ Mrs Altmann said.

Mrs Altmann does not mention the failure to fund properly the pensions which so many of them were led to expect they would receive without means-testing.

The report warns that our low spending rate has ... led to an enormous burden on family members, who are left having to take on roles as unpaid carers because the state does not step in.

The burden on those who want to keep the Welfare Wolf from the door, and to avoid the state ‘stepping in’ to their lives, could only be reduced by raising the non-means-tested state pension to which I contributed for so many years. On the other hand, increasing the availability of benefits for which I would never consider applying, even if I might be considered eligible, can only increase the burden of taxation on those, such as myself, who are receiving state pensions to which they contributed in full for many years, and who are still struggling to improve their position. A ‘benefit’ which can only be obtained by exposing oneself to ‘assessment’ by agents of the collective is an oppression, and my associates and I are quite oppressed enough already.

It is supposed to be a ‘burden’ on families to keep their relatives out of the clutches of the state? I considered it not a burden, but a necessity, to preserve my parents from such a fate.

When I was thrown out at the end of my ruined education, and found that my father’s health had been broken down by persecution so that he could not support me out of his salary as a headmaster, I thought, ‘You may think society has done its worst to you. But it can always find a way of doing something even worse.’ That has been shown true many times in the ensuing years. You may think that society has done its worst by letting your pension ‘wither on the vine’ and then means-testing it. But it can make things even worse by making it, in effect, more means-tested, so that you will be taxed even more heavily to pay for more ‘benefits’ to be made available to people of your age who are less resistant to oppression than you are yourself.

There is no ‘benefit’ without loss of self-determination (freedom). The non-means-tested state pension was the only remaining ‘benefit’ of which this was not true.

It is not a question of how bad the care homes, meals on wheels, etc. are in comparison with some equivalent that one might pay for directly; the principle of self-determination is all-important.