Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Disgusting animals.

THERE is something almost heartwarming about the way some people can turn the misfortune of others into profit for themselves.

Like the way a local Del Boy will always pop up in the middle of a famine to act as fixer, translator and driver to visiting journalists, or how when you're bereaved or heartbroken a lawyer can always find a way to bill you for it.

People like that always remind me of seagulls - vermin if you live with them, a noisy pain in the backside, but capable of feeding on anything that comes their way whether it's chips, dog poo or the bag either of them came in.

Which is why it's hard not to admire the Coalition's latest announcement about long-term care for the elderly, which however you look at it is an absolute masterpiece.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley - a chap heckled by nurses, disdained by doctors and generally accused of putting another nail in the coffin of the NHS - has saved his reputation for being an axeman by fixing the issue of how we're going to look after people as they get older.

It's a tricky one this, because more of us will be older for longer and our bodies and brains aren't really designed for it. We will deteriorate for longer than we used to, and that is an expensive business.

Lansley wants to make a series of changes, including a cap on the cost of care and setting national standards, but the biggest is that he will offer elderly people loans to pay their care home fees, which can be repaid after their eventual death. He says this will stop people having to sell their home while still alive.

Nice Andrew Lansley, saving granny's house so that granny's family can inherit it!

Except he's not. He's actually taking more money from granny, while pretending he's doing her a favour.

The loan being offered by the state will have interest charged on it, meaning that more of granny's assets will be sucked up by her care than if she sold her home and paid for it herself.

In fact, under the existing rules you do not have to sell your home at all if you don't want to.

If the main reason for needing care is a medical condition - a heart problem, stroke, dementia, Alzheimer's - the NHS pays for the whole thing. It's sometimes tricky to prove that's the main reason, but it can be done and decisions appealed against. At the moment around 26,000 people are being looked after this way.

Secondly if the care is to be funded by the local authority because it's not for medical reasons - if granny just finds it too difficult on her own - you can defer the payment until after she's gone. The rules say: "Deferred payments should be offered when individuals are willing to pay their assessed contribution but do not wish to do so immediately."

But around 24,000 homes are thought to have been sold in the past year to fund long-term care. Seeing as families did not legally have to do this, they've either been misled, bullied, or felt that it was a good idea that granny paid for her own nurses

And where are these loans coming from? I thought there was no money left. Perhaps Lansley found some down the back of the sofa.

So let's get this straight. The Health Secretary is shouting about how great he is for stopping people having to sell homes they don't actually have to sell, and instead selling them to someone without any money so that he can cream a profit from it.

There are people selling DVD players from the back of transit vans who would be impressed by that. There are bankers in the Square Mile sitting at their desks and thinking "That Lansley - whadda guy." There are grannies and grandpas the length of the land saying "quite right too".

But there is no automatic right for relatives to inherit anything. If granny wants to leave it all to a dog rescue charity, splurge it on strippers or spend it on the best nurses she can find, she is entirely within her rights. Their families will stand or fall on their own efforts, as nice as extra cash might be. Would you rather have £20,000 in your back pocket or a granny being looked after properly in her final years?

And would you say the same if it was your care home you were talking about?

The fact that the government thinks inheritance is so important is probably explained by the fact that for most of the people in charge inherited wealth is their preferred method of wage-earning. The rest of us go out to work - those in charge simply pass the time until daddy has died.

And while they do it, they tell the oldest and most vulnerable people in the country they have to sell their homes, when they don't. They tell them they have to sell it to the state, when they don't.

And they tell us we should be grateful to them for figuring this out, when we ought to drive vermin like them who prey on the elderly like this over the cliffs and into the sea.

But the most amazing thing about it all by far is that at a time of double-dip recession Lansley has hit upon the nation's one and only growth market.

By 2025 a whopping one-fifth of the British population will be over 65, and so the state will be turning more profit out of the mental and physical deterioration of its people every year.

Unless, of course, we decide to fund our own care privately - by cashing in the savings we want to leave our children.

It is a policy so circular, vicious and obtuse that it is not possible to do anything but look at it and laugh in rueful admiration about the way Andrew Lansley's brain works.

And just be grateful that he cannot fly and doesn't want to nest on your roof.

Yet.

You don't mind them until they shit on you.