Nick Clegg: how we’ll change unfair care system for pensioners

Monday should see the government publish details of how it will respond to the Dilnot Commission and improve the way people pay for care in their old age.

It’s a policy the Liberal Democrats in government have had a very large hand in – and one which there will, therefore, be a bit of a political struggle over claiming credit for.

Good then to see Nick Clegg in the Daily Pensioner, sorry Daily Telegraph, setting out why this area is so important to Liberal Democrats. He starts:

If you develop cancer, the NHS will pay for your care, no matter who you are and what your income.

If you develop dementia, and the care you need isn’t radiotherapy or expensive drugs but help with washing, dressing, and going to the bathroom, you could find yourself confronted with bills of more than £100,000. In fact, one in 10 older people ends up paying more than £100,000 for care.

(Note to those who like thinking about the mechanics of political messages: good point, but remember personal stories do better than lists of numbers at making people want to read on and at sticking in people’s memories.)

Then on to the policy, or rather not quite as, this being a piece ahead of a policy announcement, it doesn’t have the details in it. From the briefings made to the media the details look to be a relatively high cap, funded by freezing inheritance tax.

I like the form of funding. Curbing inheritance tax in any way seemed to have become politically impossible, particularly as George Osborne both made his political reputation and arguably saved the Conservative Party with his hostility to inheritance tax in the autumn of 2007. That went down very well with the public and derailed Gordon Brown’s plans* to call an early general election. Good therefore to see a sensible, and fair, way of funding this policy back in play.

The cap, probably at £75,000, is higher than I’d like – though of course there’s the £6 billion pot of gold waiting in the next Parliament which could be used by the Liberal Democrats to fund a policy of reducing it.

You can read in full Nick Clegg’s piece on care for the elderly here, and it’s always worth remembering Paul Burstow’s contribution in making sure the policy came about.


* I say plans, but given the rolling organisational shambles, inconsistency and mutual finger-pointing that was Labour’s leadership at the time, I’m being rather generous.


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