The Right and Wrong Sorts of Older People
Lynton Crosby, the Tories’ highly paid campaign consultant and sometime lobbyist for tobacco giant Phillip Morris, has advised the Tories that the way to win the general election is by cosying up to the older generations i.e. the retired and soon to-be-retired voters. He calculates that not only are these citizens likely to vote – compared, for example with young people – but they are most likely to vote Tory. 1234756_10151609383422411_625273868_n

So it came as no surprise to anyone that the Chancellor announced in his recent budget that the coalition government was going to change the pension rules to enable retiring people to cash in their work contributory pensions and not be forced into buying an annuity. Over the following days George Osborne and his Lib Dem sidekick, Danny Alexander, hawked their policy around every media outlet that would give them air-time or newspaper column inches. (For an informed discussion of the policy see: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/22/osborne-budget-annuities-decision-disaster)

A few days later the Prime Minister let it be known that the Tories were minded to include an increase in the inheritance tax threshold to £1,000,000 at the next general election. Stopping short of promising to deliver this immediately, this is a typical Cameron ruse to enforce the idea in the public’s mind that the coalition was ‘on the side’ of “retired people who worked hard and saved and put money into their house.”

To Cameron and Clegg these are the right sort of older people.

They should try telling that to the quarter of a million older people who have lost their state-funded help with carrying out everyday activities such as bathing, dressing and eating in the past four years as council budgets have been slashed and services rationed.
Despite working hard many of people do not have a million pounds to pass on to their children, have never had the chance to buy their own homes or even to save for a rainy day.

To Cameron and Clegg, these are the wrong sort of older people.

The evidence
The Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation joined forces to review the scale and scope of central government cuts to social services for older people in England from 2009/10 to 2012/13. Their report, Focus on: Social Care for Older People, was published on 26th March 2014.

The research reveals that most local authorities are tightly rationing social care for the over-65s in response to cuts, resulting in significant drops in the number of people receiving services. The key findings are as follows:
1. Between 2009/10 and 2012/13 spending on social care for older people fell by 15 per cent in real terms from £10.6 billion to £9.8 billion;
2. Almost a quarter of a million fewer older people received publicly funded community services in financial years 2012/13 compared to 2009/10, a 26 per cent drop;
3. Home and day care spending by councils fell by 23 per cent (or £538 million) over the same period;
4. The number of older people receiving home-delivered meals has more than halved since 2009/10;
5. Transfers of money from the NHS to adult social care have more than doubled since 2009/10. Without these, service cuts in social care could have been even more drastic.

Holly Holder, Fellow in Health Policy at the Nuffield Trust and joint report author said:
“Our analysis paints a picture of increased rationing of social care in response to deep cuts from central Government, despite the growing numbers of older people in the population. It is highly likely that this is having a negative effect on older people’s health and wellbeing and that of their carers, but without adequate data to assess this impact, the NHS and Government are flying blind.”

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said the report confirmed councils’ views that adult social care funding needed to be put on a sustainable footing or services would remain underfunded and care quality would suffer as a result.
“Caring for older people is one of the most important things councils do, and local authorities have worked tirelessly to protect adult social care from cuts. But we cannot escape the fact that the money councils receive from government to pay for local services will have fallen by 40% by the end of this parliament.”

The Cynicism of the Lib Dem and Tory Coalition Government

Over a period of three years, three budgets and three autumn statements the Lib Dem and Tory coalition government has slashed the amount of money that it annually allocates to Leeds to spend by £130 million to £310 million. This is a cut of 41%. This does not take into account inflation. The Lib Dem/Tory government is planning to take another £45 million next year.

The government expects Leeds, like other councils up and down the country, to provide the same quality of service for the reduced pot of money. The massive cuts imposed by the Lib Dem and Tory coalition government have had a drastic impact on Leeds City Council’s ability to provide its services. Just like in most people’s homes, Leeds City Council has to make ends meet. It has done this in two ways:

– CUTS: It has made cuts to its staff and service costs. In making these cuts the Council had to set its priorities remembering that decisions made this year will impact on later years.
– REVENUE: The Council has reluctantly begun to charge for services including charging for parking at Council-owned car parks.

In the face of cynical criticism from local Lib Dem MP, Greg Mulholland who never fails to blame Leeds City Council for the cuts to services but never fails to omit to explain who is forcing the council to make them, the council is striving to protect the elderly.
For example:
£4.3 million extra has been provided for Community Care in 2014-15 – to support older people and the vulnerable.
Eligibility criteria for access to support services have been maintained – in spite of severe budget pressure. All those with a substantial or critical risk to their independence will continue to have access to those services.
Adult Social Care’s Re-ablement service has already helped 1145 people to return to living fully independent lives over the last 3 years. This will continue – and help reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and residential care in the process.

The Labour council, under great pressure, is trying to ease the lives of its citizens. The vulnerable elderly of Leeds might be the wrong sort of older people to Cameron and Clegg but to Labour they are precisely the people who have got the greatest claim for our support.

Labour will make Britain better than this.

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