Stephen Pol­lard

Daily Express - - NEWS - Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor

their elec­tion man­i­festo in June. Mrs May de­serves credit for at­tempt­ing to grap­ple with it when so many politi­cians seem to think that if we ig­nore the is­sue it will sim­ply go away.

But as you’ll re­mem­ber she got her fin­gers burned for putting for­ward a plan that had not been fully thought through and her hu­mil­i­at­ing U-turn not only cost her a ma­jor­ity but made it even less likely that the is­sue will be dealt with. Politi­cians will see what hap­pened to her and run even fur­ther away from trouble.

To put the costs in some con­text, the av­er­age pen­sioner’s in­come has this year risen by 0.5 per cent from £14,456 to £14,522 in 2017. As the re­port shows, the cost in­crease has con­sis­tently out­paced pen­sion­ers’ in­comes. Since 2012 the av­er­age care home cost has gone up by £6,500, which is a 23.7 per cent rise from the 2012 fig­ure of £27,404.

Over the same pe­riod the av­er­age pen­sioner’s in­come has in­creased by just 9.9 per cent, from £13,208. Those fig­ures mean that a pen­sioner on an av­er­age in­come could now pay for only five months of care. Given that the av­er­age stay in a home is 2.5 years and costs £84,760 some­thing is very out of kil­ter. Which means that the only so­lu­tion for many peo­ple is to sell their home.

Quite apart from the pol­icy is­sues this raises – the very is­sue that Mrs May was at­tempt­ing to deal with in her man­i­festo – there’s a big ques­tion un­der­ly­ing the fig­ures. Why are costs ris­ing so much?

There’s no one an­swer but one of the big­gest fac­tors is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of the golden rule of pol­i­tics: the law of un­in­tended con­se­quences. When Ge­orge Os­borne, then chan­cel­lor, in­tro­duced the na­tional liv­ing wage in his 2015 bud­get it was in­tended to boost in­comes for the lower paid. But it had a huge im­pact on care homes where work­ers are at the lower end of the pay scale.

One lead­ing char­i­ta­ble provider of res­i­den­tial care, Jewish Care, cal­cu­lates that the liv­ing wage will add £4mil­lion to its wage bill by 2020. That’s not just be­cause of the im­me­di­ate pay in­creases but be­cause pay dif­fer­en­tials mean other wages also have to be in­creased to keep staff happy.

Add on to that the cost of auto en­rol­ment for pen­sions – ev­ery em­ployer in the UK must now put its staff into a pen­sion scheme and con­trib­ute to­wards it – and you can see how staff costs alone are shoot­ing up.

THIS is the root of the so­cial care cri­sis. With coun­cils strug­gling to meet ex­ist­ing com­mit­ments they can­not af­ford the in­creased care home bills. In­deed some pri­vate providers have stopped tak­ing in coun­cil funded res­i­dents be­cause the amount coun­cils are will­ing to pay is sim­ply un­re­al­is­tic.

It’s a vi­cious cir­cle. When the cost of op­er­at­ing a home rises coun­cils can’t pay, which means the home has to close, which means fewer homes, which adds to de­mand.

Res­i­dents then have to sell their homes to pay for their care, which means their fam­ily loses an as­set they thought would be passed down through the gen­er­a­tions. They then take their anger out on the politi­cians who pre­side over this, which means politi­cians are in­creas­ingly re­luc­tant to deal with the is­sue. Which be­gins the cy­cle all over again.

As things stand it is im­pos­si­ble to see any­thing even close to a so­lu­tion in sight.

‘Big­gest sin­gle is­sue fac­ing the coun­try’

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