Headline Sep 28, 2014/


'' WE' RE all in this together,''  intoned George Osborne, soon to to be Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, in 2009.  Fiscal austerity would be grim, he warned, but the pain would spread evenly.

Britons below retirement age are indeed in it together. The working-age poor are being pinched by a cap on welfare payments. Wealthy parents have been stripped of child benefits. 

University tuition fees have sky rocketed. Everyone is paying more VAT. But austerity seems much less austere if you are old. Pensioners, who fared notably well in the boom years, have been coddled in the bust. 

England's  system of care for the the elderly has long awaited an overhaul. The cost of it can demolish people's estates:

One in ten will run up expenses of at least £100,000  ($155,000). The overall care bill is growing as people live longer.

Andrew Dilnot, an economist called in to review the funding of elderly care in 2010, estimated that the cost of the current system would increase from  1.2% of GDP in 2009-10 to 1.7% by  2029-30.

At some point, many believe, the health system and the care system will have to be brought together. Only recently,  the government tackled some of these problems, by outlining changes to the way in which care is paid  for.

From  2017-18 those not eligible for  means-tested   support will be asked to pay £75,000 before the state steps in, excluding food and accommodation costs. The threshold for the new means test will be £123,000, a big rise on the present level, a lowly £23,250.  

Politically, the main prize of reform is to lift the threat that people will have to sell their homes to pay for their dotage. By setting a limit on personal spending on care -albeit a higher one that Mr Dilnot suggested -

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is protecting homeowners and those with modest savings. He also wants to ensure that the cost of care can be deducted after death from the value of the remaining estate, so old folks can remain in their homes during their lifetimes.

This, he hopes, will offset anger among Tory voters over the party's failure to make good on a 2007 pledge to exempt all estates worth less than $1 million from inheritance tax.

The government presents the reforms as a measure to protect  humble homeowners, who, in theory, stand to lose the largest proportion of their assets under the current system.

The overall effect however is to raise the cost of the state and make the funding of elderly care less progressive. Few will benefit greatly. Care homes in areas popular with pensioners cost around £30,000  a year, but the average stay is around two years-

So not many will spend enough to reach the limit at which the state steps in. And cash-strapped local councils are becoming stingier, sometimes judging people not to need care who would have received it a few years ago.  

As so often, England is trying to split the difference between other countries' approaches to welfare. In Scandinavia, the state pays for all long-term care. Elsewhere in Europe  means-testing  is dominant.

America resembles the English approach, but without a cap, so that the elderly are expected to use up their savings before the state will help:

But a closer example is available. Over the border in Scotland, to the chagrin of many English pensioners, basic social care is provided for nothing.

As the rich world ages, people will have to work longer and bear more of the most of their care.

Fitch, a ratings agency, has served notice to many countries  -including Britain that an ageing population threatens their credit rating. Britain has done some sensible things:

Creating a universal basic state pension, raising the retirement age and asking public-sector workers to contribute more.

But others have been bolder. Italy and Portugal have radically trimmed pensions.

Sweden pioneered a system in which pensions are linked to contribution.

The old are a powerful voter block, feared by politicians. But they have enough experience of life to know that, in the end, the books must be balanced.

In the developing world,  -no distant hope on-  elderly care   is in the offing. And one wonders if there ever will be..... one.

Grey Squirrels all the way. 

With respectful dedication to  O'' Captain Imran Khan. 

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' The New Reference '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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