With average care home fees this week reported to now be £30,917 per year, the UK is facing a crisis. We have an aging population and a society that condones the charging of fees for elderly care which are akin to those charged for a full boarding place at a top public school. The state education system, open and available to all, strives for success; in some towns and even small cities, not a single school in rated less than Good by OFSTED. Yet for our parents and grandparents, elderly friends and relatives, the choice is often terrifyingly poor state care or £31k a year. This is like being asked to choose being a vat of boiling oil or old-fashioned Roman crushing-by-elephant. No-one is ambitious in care-giving provision and the average pensioner annual income at £14,456 falls well short of what is needed. Even if I did dispose of my worldly assets to spend £31k a year, it would not guarantee me quality. Thus, my choice is clear: I am going to have to go to Eton instead.
At Eton College (at £36k) I would be assured of many things that my 31k investment per anuum in an average UK home could not guarantee me: I could have a nice room, plenty of friends, 3 cooked meals a day. There would be a vast program of academic and non-academic pursuits to keep my body and mind sharp. Those who looked after me would be at the top of their field (educated to an average of MA level and paid an average of £34,500 a year each, with free accommodation and food) and always live on site; they would liaise regularly with my relatives about progress and an on-site medical facility with a qualified doctor and nurses would administer my medication and check-ups. I could take up an instrument, learn a new language and have my evenings taken up viewing the concerts and theatrical performances of my peers. My relatives could visit and picnic with me on our own private island (really, it’s called Queen Eyot and is quite charming). Any special diet I might have would be catered for and I could be assured that Matron would rouse me in the mornings if I was having trouble getting up.
The way we are for our elderly in Great Britain desperately needs overhauling. Care England, who represented care homes have this week accused the government of having no strategy for old age care. Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England said: ‘I don’t know how in the age of the Equality Act you have older people having to pay for a service that younger people get for free.’What young people really get for free is ambition: a society and a government that care about achieving results. It is time the UK government were honest. They need to say exactly how much good social care costs, and then universal taxes must be raised – Nordic style – to cover it. We should have the same ambition in the care for our elderly as we do for our children. If we don’t, then we are all the worst side of that Conservative poster-boy Adam Smith (who ironically died at 63 before true old age could knaw at his conviction): writing off those who cannot contribute fiscally as being dead-weight in the economic furtherment of our country and thus unworthy of our love. We might save some pounds, but we lose our heart.
And how do I know that Eton is so much a better option you might ask? Well, my socialist friends: I used to teach there (but that’s a post for another day).