Penalising the poor

“…social care should not be a commodity…As with the NHS it should be free at the point of use and it should be paid for through general taxation…”

The regressive nature of the British tax system is highlighted by the fact that earnings over £50,000 attracted a 2% National Insurance rate as compared to 12% for lower earners. With the increase it will be 3.25% compared to 13.25%. What justification is there for higher earners paying a lower rate?

That the government has used NI in the way it has for the so-called social and health care levy reflects the fact that it is a government which serves the interests of the rich and the social strata they come from. Many of them, of course, are the rich. Thus we see the spectacle of Richie Sunak, owner of a property portfolio estimated at £10 million, insisting that £20 a week is taken off of Universal Credit, reducing it to £74.96 for a single person, unless you are under 25, in which case it is even less. The fact that the loss of such a meagre sum of £20 can so adversely affect people’s lives is an indication of the scale of poverty in our society for which government is responsible.

The use of NI to fund health and social care will hit the very people who provide the service and are on very low wages. It will penalise the working age poor, young and old. The inclusion of a charge on working people above pension age, and those taking dividends, was merely a sop to prevent a parliamentary rebellion.

Two years ago Johnson said he had a plan to resolve the social care crisis “once and for all”. In fact no such plan existed. This current financial adjustment, which gives social care only one in six pounds raised, does not constitute a plan. It does nothing to give care workers a living wage and working conditions which will encourage them to stay in the job and end the high turnover of staff. It will do nothing to end the flying visits of domiciliary care staff on low wages.

The differentiation between health and social care is completely arbitrary. Somebody with dementia is ill. Why should they have to self-fund their care?

The government’s rather shoddy document on its sketchy proposals talks about integration of social and health care but its proposals contradict that phrase. Integration would either mean a national care service to mirror the NHS, or you might combine the two. There’s a discussion to be had on that. But social care should not be a commodity unlike health care. As with the NHS it should be free at the point of use and it should be paid for through general taxation; a progressive taxation system. In particular, unearned income should be taxed at a higher rate.

I don’t believe that people should have to sell their house to pay for care, not because of their ‘right’ to pass on their wealth to their children, but because I support universal provision, paid for by general taxation. But they certainly should pay tax on the increased value of homes which is largely the result of rampant house price inflation.

The NHS is widely supported because most people accept that healthcare should be received by ill people regardless of their financial circumstances. We all know that even if we are currently healthy and do not much need the service, at some stage in our lives we will. We don’t want an American system where people die because they can’t afford to pay or they have no health insurance. It should be no different with so-called social or personal care. That private companies make a profit out of someone’s age, infirmity and illness is a reflection of the fact that we have yet to build the civilised society that we are said to be.

Martin Wicks

Letter to the Swindon Advertiser published today.

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