Policy clarification on the health secretary’s speech on care of the elderly last week. Jeremy Hunt surprised his audience by appearing to announce a new radical plan for the care of elderly people.
‘If your mother wishes to go into private residential care she will be able to do so in much the same way as people chose to send their children to public schools’
There are more people, lots more people, living longer and the country can’t afford it. These people are someone’s mother or father and if they can no longer look after themselves then their children should take them in. This is what happens in other parts of the world. The health secretary has been told by his Chinese wife that in Asia elders are “revered and respected”. There is no reason why the state should replace the family, he claimed.
He went on to say families are the best carers and the problems of neglect and abuse in institutions would be greatly reduced if elderly people were cared for by their daughters and sons. Mr Hunt asserted that not only did families have a moral obligation to care but that such a shift would be good for the economy as the building trade would be boosted by the need to build granny flats. He informed his audience that Eric Pickles the local government minister had assured him planning regulations would be relaxed.
The health secretary realised that not every family lived close to their elderly parents and so the government was in discussions with local authorities to organise a national exchange system. The idea would be that you would agree to take in an elderly person living in your area and in return a family living near your mother would agree for her to live with them.
Mr Hunt assured his audience that the government has no intention of restricting choice, so if your mother wishes to go into private residential care she will be able to do so in much the same way as people chose to send their children to public schools or enter a private healthcare scheme. In future the state will not pay for elderly people to go into residential care but will, of course, fund nursing home places for those who would otherwise block hospital beds.