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Saturday, 20 February 2010

“Political Stunt” v. Tory Stunt

The conference arranged by the Secretary of State for Health to help build a consensus on plans to pay for care of the elderly has been branded a “political stunt” by his Tory counterpart. Their preferred option was for a stunt involving a 'R.I.P. Off ' poster campaign to frighten people into believing that a no vote for them would result in a £20,000 “death tax”.

So we have another political football match being played out while the vulnerable have to watch from the side lines. As one old boy in a care home remarked on the BBC ‘News’ last night, we’ve worked all our lives paying taxes and insurance so the Government must provide care for us in our old age. True, but the problem of funding has to be addressed to achieve a consensus of all parties.

In that spirit reports suggest that the conference drew wide praise from charities, local authorities and experts who attended. The preferred option appears to be a progressive estate levy which takes account of people’s ability to contribute rather than the scare mongering £20,000 compulsory tax referred to in the poster campaign. But the Tory stunt had the desired effect. When asked, two-thirds of people favoured everybody contributing to the cost of those needing social care but when asked if there should be a “death tax” to pay for it two-thirds responded negatively.

That is no surprise but if they had been asked if they would rather pay a progressive estate levy than risk selling their homes to pay for nursing care no doubt there would have been a different response. But to be fair the Tories have offered an alternative, a voluntary insurance scheme! Fine for the super rich who can easily afford the insurance cover and get away without paying tax while the poorest are likely to lose out.

“Political Stunt” 1 – Tory Stunt 0. Time for a real consensus please.

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