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THE government is trailing schemes to fund a social care package.
Part of the Tory Party’s appeal to what it conceives as a key constituency has been the triple lock on the state pension.
Now Chancellor Rishi Sunak appears as the principal architect of a proposal to break the lock — supposedly just for one year — to avoid a £3 billion uprating of the pensions bill.
For the moment the state pension goes up each year in line with the rising cost of living, as measured by the consumer prices index (CPI) measure of inflation, increasing average wages, or 2.5 per cent, whichever one is the greater.
Breaking the pensions lock is a fancy way of saying that pensioner incomes will fall further behind the cost of living — and this when British state pensions are already the worst in the developed world.
Another problem for the Tories is the cost of social care and the arbitrary way in which this falls upon older people and their families.
They have in mind Theresa May’s disastrous misreading of the public mood at the 2017 general election which saw a substantial shift in pensioner support to Labour’s progressive policies.
The government pays lip service to the holistic notion that health and social care are best seen as part of an integrated strategy, and it has titled its present legislative proposals as the NHS Health and Care Bill.
This is woefully short on detail, imprecise in its formulations and gives every indication that it is part of an overall strategy to further privatise the NHS.
The Tory government’s approach to the long-term policy implications is clear. It sees it in a £10bn rise in National Insurance contributions that would be part of a funding regime for a care package that would parallel a deeper privatisation of the health service and be delivered by contracted-out services and private care enterprises.
We can anticipate that the profits of these would be underpinned by additional contributions from the elderly and their families.
To support this the government is promoting an entirely specious line that it is concerned that an NI contributions increase will be seen as imposing a burden on the young while pensioners live in comfort in homes which they own.
In the real world around three million pensioners do not own their housing, while the fall in the number of younger people able to afford to own their own home means future generations of pensioners will be renters, with the consequent squeeze on their pensions.
The Tory approach is entirely consistent with the reactionary mindset in seeing people as essentially self-centred and driven by individual gain and is designed to reinforce this thinking.
In fact, as in 2017, the main trend in public opinion sees the interests of the economically active — workers — as in harmony with their parents and grandparents.
Young people know that everyone gets old, while inter-generational solidarity is stronger than the “virtue of selfishness” ideology that animates leading Tories.
The National Insurance principle is an important foundation of the postwar welfare state, in that it is based on contributions from both workers and employers.
The skewed austerity economics of neoliberal governments like Britain’s threatens the right to social security and an adequate standard of living as asserted in Articles 22 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
What we need is a high-quality, fully funded and publicly accountable national care service, free at the point of need for all, and integrated with the NHS.
This cannot be delivered by a private sector that daily displays an incompetence shot through with profit-taking.
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