Time to wield grey power

This may be the General Election where the fabled phenomenon of
“grey power” finally has an impact. And not before time.

A Mori survey found that lack of support from Labour and the
Conservatives for free personal care for older people may threaten
candidates in marginal seats; the Liberal Democrats are the only
main party outside Scotland to support free personal care.

The Conservatives’ long-term care fund is simply an incentive to
save: better than nothing, unless you are one of the growing army
of pensioners on the breadline, for whom it is nothing.

And as for the government, it’s time ministers understood that
personal care is not about quality of life, though that would be
important enough. It’s about life itself, given the known impact of
substandard care on people’s life chances.

Older people’s charity Counsel and Care is preparing an election
briefing for everyone involved in residential care for older
people. Combined with older people themselves, this could be a
lobby of some significance.

If the government had really believed free personal care was a
vote-winner, you can bet its policy would have been different. The
Labour Party’s reluctant conversion in Scotland is evidence of the
fact that policy will not change unless the government believes it
has no choice.

Now is the time for social care professionals to make this a key
election issue. An opinion poll by the King’s Fund found that more
than three out of five people believe personal care should be free
to everyone who needs it.

Those who work with older people should follow Counsel and
Care’s lead, by writing to MPs, particularly those in marginal
seats, explaining the issues and citing this week’s Mori and King’s
Fund surveys.

Let’s make 2001 the year justice for older people – especially
those in poverty – finally became an election issue.

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