Thought for the Day - Rev Joel Edwards
Yesterday the Health Secretary announced his social care reform plan.
The reforms have been adopted from an earlier commission which grappled with the soaring cost of residential care. While the State is considering the cost of care for a growing over-80s population government is proposing a fixed lifetime contribution from those with assets.
After a year of consultation plans still seem hazy but contributions could later be deducted from property sales after the person dies. Every year 40,000 people are forced to sell their homes in order to pay for their care.
These colossal issues, which frustrates governments and terrify the old, may also ambush the financial future of the unsuspecting young.
I have to confess that these discussions leave me personally agitated. Having become eligible for a senior rail card recently they’re a bit close to home. And I’m wondering what I can now say to my children when they make playful innuendos about inheriting the family home ‘when we’re gone.’
It's hard not to feel like a future fiscal problem loitering in the present: a burden rather than a blessing.
In this kind of environment it’s hard to read biblical statements about the veneration of old age with any kind of assurance.
But in an ancient world without welfare and pension plans it’s easier to see why the currency of respect for the old was so vital to the political eco-system and why God himself became involved in providing assurances for Israel’s senior citizens.
“Even to old age I am he; even to your advanced age I myself will support you” said the prophet Isaiah. “I myself have made you and I myself will carry you”
No vague promises here though: because everything about belonging to this covenant God meant a religious and cultural obligation to look out for the vulnerable and feeble.
Care for the elderly was about attitudes even more than money.
Britain has 1.5 million people over 85. In the next decade care of the elderly will account for 45% of some council spending. In economic terms aging is a growing service industry in which the present and future old will need professional care and respect as much as money.
But if we are to achieve this, we will also need what the old reformer, William Wilberforce called, ‘a reformation of manners’ as much as a reformation in our economic structures.