Dilnot report: An age old problem with no easy answer

Meals on wheels delivery Just over £14bn a year is spent by councils on social care

If politics was simply about rousing rhetoric, snappy slogans and popular soundbites, pretty much any fool could do it. (Some will, predictably, respond that any fool does!) But we expect more of our elected representatives than that.

As an old radio colleague of mine said to me some 25 years ago, we require them "to grasp the nettle through the window of opportunity".

Or as JFK put it in 1961, politicians "must face problems which do not lend themselves to easy or quick or permanent solutions".

How we ensure that our elderly live out their twilight years with dignity and security is one of those difficult issues. There are no easy or quick solutions and answering the challenge necessitates some quite profound reflection on our values.

After decades dodging the question and allowing a climate of fear and uncertainty to develop within England's social care sector, the coalition government asked the economist Andrew Dilnot to bring his not-inconsiderable intellect to it.

When I met him recently, the first thing he said to me was this: "We are four times richer in real terms than we were just after the war."

More on this story

That is his starting point for the debate: we can afford to care for our elderly - it is a matter of priorities, not affordability.

Mr Dilnot estimates that, at current levels of need, his proposals will require England to devote just 0.25% of public spending on provision for the elderly. "Do we care enough?" he asks.

It is, though, a matter of who pays - and that's where the politics starts to get toxic.

Where should the balance lie between state and the individual? The Dilnot Commission's solution is creative and clever. But in the end someone has to fork out and there will be endless argument as to what is fair.

It is the time for political courage not political cowardice - grasping that stinging nettle through the open window of opportunity.

Dilnot report: How radical should it be?

The debate has been framed in terms of state v individual - but I do wonder whether there is a third element here, an aspect to which other countries and cultures pay more attention: community.

The responsibility of families, friends and neighbours to care for the elderly is barely discussed, as though looking after the old is none of our business.

As he was finalising today's report, I spoke to Andrew Dilnot and others for Radio 4's World Tonight programme. Do have a listen. My investigation began in Denham Garden Village.

Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

Savile: 'How could this be allowed to happen?'

Today's investigation into Jimmy Savile reveals how his criminal behaviour "was facilitated by ministers or civil servants".

Read full article

More on This Story


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    It is a bit frustrating, as a working taxpayer, to see how widespread the belief is that the State somehow owes their children a free house. If someone owns a house and needs care, there is nothing remotely wrong or immoral about expecting them to pay for it. There is no human right to leave an enormous inheritance, especially with taxpayer support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Why has it become the State's responsibility to look after those who fail to plan ahead?
    After all, if they care too little about their own future to plan for it and their children or other relatives care too little about them to make even a modest sacrfice on their behalf then why should perfect strangers be forced (the key word here) to support them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    In response to those who ask "why should those who fail to save for their old age receive the same (or better) lifestyle at taxpayer's expense while responible persons have to pay out of paocket until all of their assests are gone"? The answer is simple; they shouldn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    '8. one day baby
    4TH JULY 2011 - 15:26'

    Thanks to this risible new 'commenting' system this cannot be developed as it should be, so I'll content self with a totally manipulable 'like'.

    Just as some saddos seem to be disliking anything, no matter how well argued, that doesn't suit.

    Like much these days, the system is the problem and unfit for purpose, yet prevails by creating bread & circuses

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    There are 2 'fair' ways:

    - Make an allowance that covers reasonably the costs of care for anyone who needs it.
    - Give absolutely nothing in terms of care or health service to anyone, old or young.

    Decide which you like best.


Comments 5 of 24



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.