It was reported yesterday that the government is considering the introduction of an additional death tax to fund their aspiration to create a 'National Care Service', which would provide universal, free-at-the-point of use care for the elderly. It would be levied at 10% of the deceased's estate, up to a maximum of £50,000. According to The Times:
All three parties agree that the current system of means-tested care is unfair, and have promised to introduce legislation in the next Parliament to ensure that in future people will not have to remortgage or sell their homes or spend their savings to fund the costs of residential care or other services.
Surprisingly enough, I don't agree with any of the parties. Their position amounts to saying that even if you have the cash to pay your own way, or even if you have assets that could be liquidated to allow you to do the same, someone else should be forced to pay for you. And what is 'fair' about that?
You'd think they would have learned something from the failings of the NHS, and that rather than creating a social care equivalent, they might think about doing something to promote private saving and insurance, and above all personal responsibility. People need to get the message that cradle-to-grave welfare is not sustainable, and that increasingly people are going to have to provide for themselves.
I'm sure there are people out there who will read this and accuse me of not caring about the elderly. In reality, however, I think the lack of respect and dignity accorded to the aged is one of the most depressing aspects of British society. I just don't think more collectivism is the answer.
People should save for their retirement while they are earning, and not expect current workers to pay their bills. Families should be far more prepared to look after their own, rather than passing the buck to the rest of us. Those who care about the elderly should be far more willing to fund voluntary care organizations. And the state should only step in as a last resort, to help those who really have no other options.