Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

We have a furore in the UK about the so-called ‘injustice’ of the elderly having to sell their homes to pay for long-term care. What, in the name of all that’s holy, is unjust about someone selling their home to pay for their own care – providing their spouse doesn’t get kicked out of it. If they’re moving into a care home then it’s not as if they’re ever going to get to live in the bloody place again. This expectation that the state (i.e. we taxpayers) will fund every damned thing from cradle to grave really annoys me – it panders to greed, particularly the greed of children of the elderly who see their inheritance as their God-given right.

If you have assets, then you pay - and assets must be checked to ensure people don’t give their homes to their kids just before going into care. Anyone proposing free long-term care for the well-off elderly would lose my vote immediately, as I pay enough in tax as it is and have no wish to subsidise people’s inheritance.

I think there’s even a case for making the children of the elderly liable for all care costs, with only those failing a means test having the right to state funded care – much as the Child Support Agency means tests non-resident parents for child maintenance – herald the Zimmer Support Agency. If the children of the elderly then have to sell of their parents’ houses to fund care, then so be it.

In the winter of 1947 the author Dennis Wheatley penned 'A Letter to Posterity', which he buried in an urn at his country home. The letter was intended to be discovered some time in the future but was actually found in 1969 when that home was demolished for redevelopment of the property. In it he predicted that the socialist reforms introduced by the post-war government would inevitably lead to an unjust state, and called for both passive and active resistance to it.

"Socialist ‘planning’ forbids any man to kill his own sheep or pig, cut down his own tree, put up a wooden shelf in his own house, build a shack in his garden, and either buy or sell the great majority of commodities – without a permit. In fact, it makes all individual effort an offence against the state. Therefore, this Dictatorship of the Proletariat, instead of gradually improving the conditions in which the lower classes live, as has been the aim of all past governments, must result in reducing everyone outside the party machine to the level of the lowest, idlest and most incompetent worker.”

The above list of things you can’t do without the permission of those in power also includes assisted suicide. Even your body and life belong to the state.

It’s incredible to think that comment was written 62 years ago - it could have been written by a social commentator today. Seems little changes.

It’s Folly House Gig season again and we’ve already sent out invitations to all the locals to head off potential noise complaints. We’re combining it with Caravan Mummy’s 70th birthday. As usual, Perry’s group The Expressions will be the headline act in the Michael Jackson Memorial Tent – well, actually it’s the only tent – well, more of a small gazebo really. Following these gigs I always make a decision to learn an instrument by the time of the next gig so I can join in, but never get round to it. Looks like it’s going to have to be air guitar again this year.


  1. The Wheatley tirade seems a bit over the top. The "socialist planning" introduced by "the dictatorship of the proletariat" was nothing more than the reforms based on the ideas of the liberal academic, Lord Beveridge. These led to such things as the NHS and unemployment benefits which - despite what the public-school educated Wheatley might have thought - most people have judged as a success. Whilst I have some sympathy for your Zimmer Support Agency idea I suspect it would be seen as yet another example of the State telling people what to do.

  2. Alan: I have no problem with the state telling people to look after their own and rely less on the state, unless they really need it.

  3. Much as I wholeheartedly agree with your ethos of paying your own way, if the state will provide care if you don't have a house to sell, aren't you only encouraging people to sell their house and spend the money on gin and high living, secure in the knowledge that the state will then fund their care home existence?

  4. Anon: Not if the means test is conducted properly and forensically - all bank accounts for the last 10 years. If needs be, also the bank accounts of children. Previous residences and when sold is an easy matter to check.

  5. This is, and always has been a contentious issue, but I agree with you that those who can afford to pay should do so.

    When my parents bought their council house 15 years ago, my Mum made a great thing about this enabling her to leave something to my brother and I. Rubbish! Both my grandmothers, one great grandmother and several great aunts have lived past the age of 90 and I have no illusions that my parents home will one day have to be sold to pay for their care. I have no problem with means testing either - I know people who don't own their own home and will never be able to afford to do so.

    Whilst I agree that we shouldn't all expect the state to care for us when we're old, I don't think children can be forced to look after their parents. I haven't got any children so I know I'll have to pay for my own care when I'm old and grey. And even if I did have kids, we don't have any tradition of looking after our elderly in this country, unlike some cultures where many generations all live together - the 'nuclear' family has existed in this country for at least 500 years. Before the welfare state came along, it was quite common for elderly people to be dumped in charity hospitals that were only one step away from being a work house, so the system we have now is much better than that. When my parents are 90 I'll be 68 myself so I may not be in any fit state to look after them anyway. My surviving Grandma (who turned 90 this year) is living with my (single, childless and mildly insane) Uncle and I firmly believe she would be better off in a care home. She has no home to sell, so if it comes to it, the tax payer will have to foot the bill.

  6. Liz: when I get old (or older) and infirm, the care home will have first call on my house, not my kids.

    Also, if parents have to pay for their kids, then the kids should be made - in turn - to pay for their parents. It's only just. If they don't, tax them to hell and gone.