Why the Health and Social Care Bill won’t fix Britain’s care crisis

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Perhaps my father was silent, or perhaps I talked too much to really listen. In any case, I learned a lot about both of us by going through his papers, sitting in a bedroom that he could no longer get into, downstairs watching old westerns on a loud-sounding TV. In the four years that I cared for him, along with a group of professionals, my brothers and sisters and, when she herself was not too weak, my mother, I realized that I was not just treating a person on the road to oblivion, but the socio-economic system. It was a palliative farewell to the whole way of life.

Dad, born in 1930, dropped out of school at 14 and worked in a well-paid union job for four decades. He retired at age 60. By age 90, he couldn’t hold a pen, sign forms, or get up from a chair without help. It falls to me to manage the family finances, and I abhor the math and practicality that only the child of a reasonable and well-paid person can afford.

Looking at these papers in a house that was expensive to heat even in the glory days of the price ceiling, I saw that he got a mortgage 45 years ago, in 1976, at just over four times his earnings. The same house will cost you 15 times the average salary today.

These figures were of particular importance to me at that time: I was 50 years old, I had nowhere to live. but with my parents, below-average income and no pension, and I watched any meager inheritance fantasies float over the horizon into a nursing home. Now you can say that I was a fool and a loser, and you may be right, but I think there is more going on here.

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I am the youngest in the family, and as such I have cared for elderly parents earlier than most of my peers, but I know that few of them have the kind of job or housing that would allow them to finance the care of my children. father could: a well-rated care provider of his choice, which allowed him to stay in his warm home, eat more or less what he wanted while still supporting his wife, and, in the end, a good nursing home. Especially my younger friends, members of the generation, don’t stand a chance.

The government’s proposed health and welfare bill, Restore better, offers a reprieve for a specific demographic—those with protection money. Under the current system, anyone with an estate over £23,250 must pay their full care costs, but from October 2023 some care costs will be capped at £86,000. This is coming too late for my parents’ generation, but just in time to benefit the beneficiaries of the last decades of buy-to-lease and right-to-buy deregulation.

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It is difficult for the less wealthy to interpret this legislation as anything but a divisive tool that will provoke further inequality. You can exempt wealthy homeowners from some of the care costs, but someone still has to pay. The government is also doing nothing to address the issue of who will do the care work – half a million people are currently waiting to be cared for due to shortages caused by low wages and immigration restrictions. A recent 3.1 per cent increase in care allowance to £69.70 per week has been completely undermined by inflation. Most caregivers have to shorten their working hours or quit their jobs to care for their friends or relatives.

Underlying our inability to deal with the care crisis is our collective primal fear of aging—a fear that makes it easier to avoid the problem than fight it, something that is good for neoliberalism or take-what-you-can-capitalism. , or as we now call it.

The systems and opportunities that supported my parents—home ownership, generous pensions for years of work, and mid-20th-century social mobility—are gone. The gladiatorial individualism that has come to replace them seems almost understandable in response.

To what extent is system meanness driven by fear of one’s own old age? Talking about tomorrow in a meaningful way can allow us to purposefully rethink today. You don’t have to go back in history to understand that welfare spending is transformative and social change is possible – so why don’t we do it? As if there was something powerful in the way.

Guardian involuntarily: dispatches from the edge of life The Reluctant Carer published by Macmillan on 23 June in hardcover for £16.99.

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