The Charge of the White (Haired) Brigade

For a long time now, the inactive dithering position of successive governments on care for the elderly has been nothing short of a national disgrace. As life expectancy has increased, so has the manifestation of greater numbers of elderly people requiring residential nursing care as their bodies become frailer. Since the second World War, particularly in the last thirty years, the number of private care homes in the U.K. has exploded from almost a peripheral side-line catering for the mainly well to do, into a lucrative burgeoning industry.

As the care industry has blossomed, so has the ducking and weaving by governments on how, and who pays for care of the elderly. In the political vacuum of home care costs, increasing numbers of elderly care home residents have been forced to sell their own homes to pay for their care, albeit there being supposed laws preventing this from happening which are conveniently never enforced. It is claimed that in the last year alone, people have been forced to sell a staggering 24,500 homes to pay for elderly care costs.

The present weak coalition government has now issued a White Paper, (a discussion document), outlining their thoughts on home care cost. Although the government are suggestion that a financial cap be placed on the amount anyone individual will be expected to pay, because coalition governments always lead to weak consensus policies, they have so far refused to say what  the individual financial level should be set at. It appears the Government is attempting to procrastinate by leaving that decision to whoever wins the next election. It is only my opinion but it does seem that a government that is unable to make decisions is not a government at all. Does not the word “govern” imply just what it says, an administration bold enough to make decisions instead of group of politicians acting like naughty school boys creating mischief and running away from hard decisions.

The main issue being overlooked by proponents of policies that financially squeeze every last drop of monetary blood from the elderly is that they have already paid for their care during their working life. The vast majority of elderly people that own their own homes are far from wealthy, hence the saying property rich but penny poor. Most have never received benefits but have spent a lifetime of paying for those who do. Even in retirement they still pay taxes for those claiming benefits while often being denied any form of entitlement themselves.

Something that cuts many elderly people to the quick, most  who have scrimped and saved to own their own property, is to see the money they are paying out in taxes being shovelled into the pockets of “Benefit Tourists” who come to this country in the full knowledge and expectation they will receive financial benefits often denied to them in their own countries.

Something often conveniently forgotten by politicians is they do not create wealth, governments spending policies only exist by taxing the wealth others have created.

Another thing often overlooked by politicians until election time comes knocking on their door is the all important X that each elector will wield like the sword of Damocles hanging over the ballot paper. As life expectancy has increased, so has the number of elderly people who can and will use their vote. As a movement, the “silver voter” has now become the most powerful of all electoral blocs in the U.K. It is a bloc that will not hesitate to show no mercy to politicians of any party that believe the elderly can be treated as a convenient cash cow any longer. Governments should also not forget, that however they twist words to justify any form of financial charge on the elderly to pay for care, whether it is capped or not, it will still be viewed as as Death Tax whether the politicians like it or not.

July 2012

Fracking in the Mendip Hills

July opens with the understandably shocking news to many that the Government have granted a licence to allow test drilling for methane gas on the beautiful Mendip Hills of Somerset. If viable deposits of gas are found, it is intended to use the extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing often referred to as Fracking.

Fracking involves pumping water under high pressure into shale rock to create mini-explosions to fracture shale rock and thereby releasing whatever fluid or gas resource the rocks contain. This announcement has led to immediate environmental alarm bells ringing amongst locals as apart from being an outstanding area of natural beauty, the Mendip Hills are known to contain a vast and as yet unexplored interlinked cave network. Probably the best publically known of these subterranean caverns being Wookey Hole in Cheddar George. Further alarm is created by two recent earth tremors near Blackpool in Lancashire soon after nearby site began test fracking. The understandable fear is that the fracking process will allow gas or chemicals to enter water supplies. Despite assurances, if such contamination did occur, it is difficult to see how the process could be reversed. Tests once carried out on the Mendips water course by releasing a harmless dye into a stream showed the dye emerging miles away. This test showed the water course and cavern systems are all inter-linked even though the precise knowledge of how is not yet understood. Assurances and controls may all sound reassuring but people have grown cynical of these with the knowledge that such assurances and controls did not stop the disastrous environmental oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico and that earth tremors have already been linked to this controversial extraction process. Who knows, perhaps the Witch of Wookey Hole will cast a hex on those that dare disturb her domain.

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