Hunt is on for taxing workers to provide their future care

There's no short-term answer to the funding of care for the elderly
There's no short-term answer to the funding of care for the elderly

Politicians are forever thinking up grand schemes they think will help people prepare better for old age.

Some of it is perfectly sound, some of it beyond the pale. One such idea comes to mind which doesn’t make an awful lot of sense since what is proposed is what most of us were doing anyway for years of our working lives.

Sandra Chapman

Sandra Chapman

This one, from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, suggests that money could be taken from salaries monthly to pay for care in old age.

I must be missing something here because isn’t that what governments have been doing for decades by deducting National Insurance contributions from salaries?

The fact that some of us are suspicious that not all of these contributions were devoted to that purpose, given how little help is available for elderly people who need it now, begs the question what are NI contributions actually spent on besides running the National Health Service, a behemoth which is now in crisis?

Mr Hunt now suggests the deductions taken from salaries would then be paid to insurance firms to cover care home and home help costs after retirement. Whoa on there Mr Hunt. My generation knows all about the many insurance firms which let down those of us who, for years, saved with them to have a decent pension on retirement and who ended up with just a fraction of what was promised.

It’s easy to see how our trust in them was eroded and none of us can possibly be sure that the same thing wouldn’t happen again to the next generation. Isn’t it why so many young people put their money into buy-to-let now rather than trust a company which makes promises it cannot stick to?

Of course, he says, employees would be able to opt out of the scheme because politicians wouldn’t want to be seen introducing a ‘tax to pay for care’. But what happens to those who opt out preferring to spend the money on high living? Where does the money come from for their care once they reach the age of needing care? Will the State have to cough up anyway leaving those who did pay up disadvantaged?

Ministers are claiming that the scheme would mean an end to ‘the crippling care costs that often deny children much of their inheritance.’ I don’t buy that.

Since when have politicians worried about children being able to inherit the family home for example? Isn’t the general consensus at Westminster that no child should expect to inherit wealth unless their parents are very rich and can set up trust funds?

Even worse, politicians have also come to accept that health care for the elderly shouldn’t be paid for by the State. In fact, currently, those who have to pay for care are subsidising those who don’t have to pay.

Not until 2020 will a cap on the cost of social care come into being, but don’t hold your breath. The cap was set at £72,000 and was supposed to come into effect next year. I have no confidence whatever that it will ever see the light of day. And anyone imagining that a Labour Party would do better can just take one look at Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist travellers who will have the country bankrupt in no time should they win the next election.

There is no short term or easy answer to care for the elderly, not while families are living in tiny homes with both fathers and mothers having to work to pay the bills.

Writing in this newspaper last week RT. Rev John McDowell, Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher said society should remember that we have probably never depended more on older people. Huge number of them, he says, do what they can, unpaid, to support their own families and society in general. Politicians should take note.