Labour want to nationalise care for the elderly. They think it would be their latest big idea, another large spending pledge which they hope will win them votes. Even they have recognised that in this climate people will ask “How is it going to be paid for?” That led them into the trap of the unpopular death tax, a tax on the estates of those who die leaving money to others. As a result last night they started to peddle back from it, and will instead go into the election offering a review of how to pay for this latest expensive nationalisation.
Let me explain the reality of the situation. Against the current bleak background for public spending there is no money to do as Labour wishes.
What is the alleged problem with current policy? The issue is that prudent pensioners who need to move into a care home for their final months have to use up their savings or sell their home to pay the bills of the care home. Their children often complain, believing that it should be part of the NHS service to provide the care home place free. They would like the money and the property to survive in the pensioner’s ownership, so it can be passed on to the children on death. For many years I have had to explain politely but firmly to constituents under Labour and Conservative governments that is not our system.
Our system does provide free care home provision for any pensioner who needs a place and has no savings or property of their own. It provides a free care home place for an elderly person with a home, if their husband or wife is also still alive and needs their own home to live in. The only elderly person that has to sell their former home is the one who was living on their own and has moved into the care home.
Our system also provides free health care for all who need it, including residents of care homes. The issue is who pays for the meals and the accommodaiton. Anyone continuing to live in their own home, whatever their age, has to pay for their meals and housing. The same regime applies to those living in care homes, if they have some money.
When the country is nearly bankrupt it is foolish to suggest that taxpayers need to take responsibility for paying for all care home bills, however much money the elderly person in the care home may have. The person in the care home does not need their former house, as they now live in the care home.
Children of elderly parents who have money themselves can always pay the bills for their elderly relative in order to inherit the property, if they do not wish it to be sold prior to the relative’s death. It is possible to take out insurance against the need to be in a care home. The good news is most people do not need to end their life in such a home, so insurance is affordable.