• Dementia Tax 02 June 2017 | View comments

  • 29th May 2017 | By David Jolley

    There is so much in the daily news. I generally read the headlines and maybe the letters page, then read on in those articles which seem likely to be useful, interesting or amusing. Mostly I depend on nudges from Sue, who reads everything much more diligently.

    ‘Colin Godber is in the letters’. This is May 26th and Colin has things to say about Polly Toynbee, Mrs May and the strange business of a U turn. As I understand it Mrs May and her colleagues had suggested that money for good works should be raised by requiring that older people who are needing and receiving care should be charged for that care beyond the calls on their finances that are already in place. This was to be a feature of the Conservative Party’s ‘pitch’ for the coming election.

    I guessed that Mrs May had been advised that this would be a popular policy which would appeal to those who identify older people to be ‘Public Enemy Number One’. It used to be the case that pensioners were reliably amongst the poorest in society, but careful management has seen their average income equal or exceed the average worker’s wage. So not only are we a ‘burden’ to society, we are also sitting pretty on money we do not need. Sitting for sure. Sitting Ducks for a grab raid.

    The shallow injustice of such a policy was quickly recognised and so the idea has been scrapped, at least for now. This is the U turn.

    Colin is not happy about this. He declares himself a long-term advocate of such a policy. ‘The social care bill for our collectively wealthy older generation should be paid for by us (Colin is of retirement age) and not by our less privileged juniors’.

    I find this very difficult to follow. Where is the precedent for requiring one subset of the population, identified only by age, to be dealt with as if different from the rest of humankind?

    I am closer to the note from Councillor Munby in the same set of letters. ‘Should rich people pay more for their social care? No. Rich people should pay more in taxes.’

    Indeed, rich people do pay more in taxes than do those who are less well off. The argument has to be that we must collect sufficient in taxes to meet the predictable needs shared within our society. Surely the collection of taxes is not to differ between individuals because of their age, gender, ethnicity or any other personal characteristic.

    Colin diverts within his treaty to hold up for scrutiny ‘the iniquitous contrast between the help this country guarantees for the cancer victim compared with other devastating illnesses like dementia.’ Putting aside a dislike of ‘victim ‘or ‘sufferer’ as descriptors of individuals living and dying with a particular condition, I am not aware that people with cancer are dealt so very differently by government.

    There is a skew in the financing of charities and voluntary agencies toward cancer and children’s illnesses for care and for research www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/apr/24/top-1000-charities-donations-britain

    I am pretty sure this is an international phenomenon. This is a reflection of values shared by many, wanting to do something extra about illness and death coming to individuals ‘before their time’. Much of the benefit toward general health and longevity come from less spectacular interventions to improve public health and social circumstances. Fairer share of wealth and income is associated with better health and survival across the board. These quietly effective actions do not have the emotive pull of death and pain from cancer or loss of children which open purses for charities. But they should be championed by thoughtful people and by responsible national and local government. I am sure that is what Colin Godber is saying.

    We really do not need government guided by short term fashion and popularity seeking.

    In these exchanges dementia is quite properly identified as the single pathology which underpins the vulnerability and need for care of many older people. But it works in association with a range of other pathologies, both medical and social. There is perhaps within all this a first awareness and declaration that the nation does not feel comfortable to exploit vulnerable older people, whatever the source of their vulnerability.

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