Free for all: all for free!
By guest blogger JEF SMITH
The continued non-appearance of the social care green paper and the plethora of broken promises as to its publication date surely demonstrate total cynicism on the part of the Government. The document is ready, has been for some months; it is being held back entirely for political reasons. The fact is that the matter is currently being handled solely from a public relations perspective, the infamous grid of political announcements having got completely gummed up by you-know-what. But even while we’re waiting for Greenot, there is really no reason why we shouldn’t carry on discussing the issues it will reportedly – or perhaps won’t dare to – cover.
At the heart of the debate is the question of fairness, which can be quickly summed up thus: why should people, mostly elderly, who have the bad luck to have developed disabilities which oblige them to seek support for daily living have to pay for that help? It seems, and clearly is, unjust. The nearest public service comparators are education and health.
To those who want to abolish student fees, it is plausibly argued that such a reform would benefit largely the better off, but it can equally be shown that free health care also advantages the relatively wealthy. The alternative is a system under which the rich would have to buy health services while the poor got theirs without payment on the basis of a means test.
The guiding principle here is that wealth redistribution should be a matter for fiscal not social policy. We may want greater equality – a wholly worthy objective – but we should not get into the tangles which result from trying to provide services differentially to different income groups. Once we’ve established that fundamental point, it becomes clear that education, health and social care are all basic rights which the State should provide free at the point of delivery. In our society, that principle was agreed for primary and secondary education more than a century ago and for health with the creation of the NHS.
So let’s retain free health services, restore free tertiary education, and extend that same free status to social care. There is wealth enough in our society to fund such a reform; it’s simply – well perhaps not so simply – a question of the Government’s having the courage to get its hands on the necessary resources. That’s called taxation.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.