If you want to pass on anything of value to your children, you have to make sure you leave this life before you get too sick or old.
That is the ghastly situation that Scotland’s senior generation faces at the moment. It’s nothing to do with those nasty Tories, this is a heartless scandal that is made entirely in Scotland.
The much vaunted ‘free care for the elderly’ is very much a misnomer as requiring such care can suck you of your home and your savings in less than a year. The rules include the following:
“Those with personal capital assessable assets (and ½ of any jointly held assessable assets) exceeding only £24,750 (2012/13) have to pay for all of their accommodation costs.”
It is suspiciously difficult to find any information on how much accommodation costs at a care home in the UK, let alone Scotland, but Partnership suggests the following:
“On average an individual can expect to pay around £27,144 a year for a residential care home, rising to over £38,000 if nursing is required. “ The weekly figure quoted for Scotland was £566/week, or £29,432/year, which is already above the £24,750 cut-off for having to pay your own way. Kiss goodbye to the fruits of your hard-earned labour if you can’t look after yourself.
Basically, as I understand it, even if you had a mere £100,000 capital locked up in a family home, you would have to liquidate that asset to pay for the first three or four years of your care before the Government would provide the much vaunted ‘free’ element that it is so keen to boast of on its glossy pamphlets.
More worrying is the apparent creeping privatisation that is still percolating through the system, seemingly unchecked. So not only are older people handing over their savings and selling their homes to pay for their own care, but part of their money is going into the profits of big business that often, too often, can’t meet basic standards. It can’t be right. The issues around Southern Cross and Elsie Inglis are two of many examples where private care for what should be a public provision just doesn’t work.
At a sprightly early 30s, I’m far from being an expert on the issue, but the more I read about what lies ahead for Scotland’s elderly, the more I realise that we are so far away from having a truly civilised society that we might as well start again from a blank sheet of paper. Rather than decide what level of tax we want to pay and work how far it goes, why has no political party worked out what costs are required to run a modern, compassionate, cradle-to-grave nation and then adjusted the tax levels accordingly?
Teaching our children to a satisfactory standard cost x, ensuring a decent minimum level of health standards (including looking after our elderly) costs y and policing our numbers to a degree where we all feel reasonably safe costs z. Add everything up and spread that necessary income across the taxes accordingly. The obvious explanation for this not having taken place is that the result would be tax rises and the political party who proposed them at the next election would get unjustly stuffed. Witness the Scottish Greens last year who failed to take advantage of a Lib Dem implosion, no doubt due to their argument that relatively minuscule tax rises were unavoidable.
Sweden gets it, of course. A VAT rate of 25% vs ours of 20%, an income tax rate of 48% vs ours of 40%, a Corporation Tax rate of 26% vs ours of 24% (23% from 2014). Sweden benefits from a state monopoly on booze, a law against people owning second homes, shared parental leave, generous social security and a health service every bit as effective as the NHS but at about a quarter of the price. The result? A balanced, prosperous, healthy, civilised society that can afford, amongst other things, genuine free care for the elderly.
Suggest to a Swede that one needs to sell their home to be looked after by the state and be prepared to be embarrassed by their stupefied reaction.
If the numbers in Scotland don’t add up, then the numbers don’t add up and we just have to try something else. We surely can’t continue to asset strip the elderly in order to make Scotland’s ends meet.