First, we had the death tax, then the dementia tax, and now we have the over 40s tax. Any conversation that surrounds social care funding always comes down to compulsory payments.
This time the current Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, is considering targeting people aged 40-65 with a tax to help fund the cost of their care in later life. He told the Daily Telegraph that he’s attracted to the proposal because it has cross-party support.
Despite the proposal ignoring the fact everybody ages and feeling like one of the most ageist ideas I’ve heard in years, it also contradicts what Matt Hancock has said previously about the need to focus on prevention.
In a speech to the International Association of National Public Health Institutes, Mr Hancock said we need to empower people to take more care of their own health. He’s also espoused the health and wellness benefits of the arts and social activities, urging GPs to take-up social prescribing.
I couldn’t agree more. On both counts.
Old age is not a disease. More often than not, the long-term illnesses experienced in later life are due to lifestyle choices. Frailty can also be exacerbated by lifestyle -for example, a lack of physical activity and social interaction.
Therefore, the emphasis does need to be on prevention.
And part of this means encouraging people to plan for later life. We do need to take responsibility for our own older age – thinking ahead to how we want to live and where we want to live rather than burying our heads in the sand. If that means selling the family home then so be it!
More broadly, we also need to approach the way we age in a completely different way. We’re living longer than ever before and the concept of retiring at 60 or 65 is redundant.
With so much life in our years left, we should be building on our passions and creating new things to do. Old age isn’t a period of decline, it’s an opportunity to keep on learning and potentially keep on earning!
By opening up this conversation and promoting an active and meaningful older age, policy makers can start to tackle the underlying issues that contribute to frailty and chronic conditions.
What’s more, it’s an opportunity to encourage people to build financial reserves they will need to sustain a healthy later life. The reality is there is a new generation of older people who are coming through the ranks that don’t have the equity in their houses to pay for their care.
Taxing people is the relatively easy option that won’t actually result in long-term change. It’s the stick not the carrot approach and I can just see the tax having to increase to keep up with the growing demands on health and social care.
However, if the Government starts a national conversation about planning for later life and then provides the right support for people, perhaps we’ll see a more sustainable system emerge?
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