Friday 16 April 2010

Paying for care for the elderly

Well done Nick Clegg!

Let's hope he hasn't peaked too soon. I am a veteran of the February 1974 campaign when, incredible as it may seem now, the weekend before the poll there was serious talk of we Liberals winning the election outright, Jeremy Thorpe becoming Prime Minister and discussion as to who would be in a Liberal cabinet (I had my eye on the Overseas Development post). Alas our support melted away in the next few days and so 36 years later we still wait for Elysium.

The one thing all three leaders are agreed on is that elderly people should not be forced to sell their houses in order to pay for personal care. I cannot personally see the logic of this, so if this blog ever achieves any readers I'd be glad to engage in arguments which may enlighten me.

The appreciation in the value of houses over the last half century has happened without any effort on the part of the owners. Hence this is unearned wealth. If the sole surviving owner owner needs personal care why shouldn't the house be sold to help pay for it? I see no reason why taxpayers should fund the care while the unearned wealth is preserved for children or other beneficiaries to inherit. This seems to me to be particularly unjust where the house falls into the Vince Cable "Mansion" bracket, and where the offspring are probably already well-heeled.

I understand the difficulty of separating personal from medical care, and agree that, under he principles of the NHS, medical care should be free , but the separation can and should be attempted in site of the inevitable anomalies that will arise.

Two measures which would alleviate the injustice of unearned wealth would be the removal of the exemption from capital gains tax from a principal private residence, and effective inheritance taxes. Liberals used to have a policy that inheritance taxes should be on the recipients rather than the estate, with exemptions on small bequests so as to encourage the dispersal of wealth. Do we still?

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