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Kilgour calls for foreign aid cut to tackle NHS and social care crisis

January 16, 2020

Renaissance Care chairman Robert Kilgour has called for Britain’s foreign aid budget to be cut to the European average – to help pay for this country’s health and social care needs.

Mr Kilgour, who founded Four Seasons Health Care and is now chairman of Renaissance Care which operates 14 care homes in Scotland, criticised such elements of foreign aid as the £151 million which goes to China and India, both of which have strong economies able to fund space programmes. He also pointed what he called the wasteful use of British money, such as Rwanda buying a box at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium for £30 million and Ethiopia spending part of £5.2 million aid promoting a girl band.

“Britain is legally committed to meeting the UN’s foreign aid target for all developed countries of 0.7% of Gross National Income, but only the Scandinavian countries, Luxembourg and the Netherlands also meet that target,” said Mr Kilgour.

“Of course, there are many worthwhile projects we support around the world to help those in need, especially in Africa. However, the legitimacy of our aid budget is undermined by ridiculous misuses of public money.

“If we were to match the European average of around 5% of national income, the amount given by such wealthy countries as Switzerland and Germany, we could still fund the essential programmes we support around the world – without spending on ridiculous schemes to meet that arbitrary 0.7% target, such as the £15 million project aimed at reducing the flatulence of Colombian cattle.

“Rwanda’s dictator Paul Kagame received £62 million of your money and spent half of it on a sponsorship deal for his favourite football club, Arsenal, to promote tourism to his country, and Ethiopia promoted a five-piece girl band called Yegna as part of a programme part-funded by British aid to the tune of £5.2 million. These are just two extreme examples of waste of British taxpayers’ cash.

“Well, here’s a radical idea. Let’s instead use this money to ensure that our creaking NHS and social care system has the funding it so badly needs. Which? research has warned that only 12% of people over 55 in this country are putting aside money to help pay for care in old age, so that system will obviously need even more support soon.”

Mr Kilgour said that waste of overseas aid could be traced back to the ill-conceived policy of committing 0.7% of our national income to aid saying that, with a growing global economy, one person from the developing world escaped poverty every second of every day.

“Regardless, we increase aid spending every year,” he said. “Due to this, the Department for International Development finds itself with an embarrassment of riches – ever more money to spend but ever fewer poverty-stricken people to spend it on. Little wonder we end up supporting ludicrous projects.

“A lot of the strain on our NHS stems from the crisis in social care. Our ageing population means we’re in desperate need of care home beds – however we’re losing these at a growing rate each year. Lack of investment by Government and stretched local authorities means desperately-needed care homes are closing.

“This is exacerbated by a continuing shortage of nurses and care staff. We have previously relied on workers from around the world coming to the UK – however, there has been a 90% decline in the arrival of EU nurses since the Brexit referendum and an increase in those returning home.

“Bed blocking costs the NHS over £3 billion and wastes around one million hospital bed days a year as older patients who should be released into care homes or provided with home care packages remain on wards. “If we were to only match the European average of 5% of national income, around £4.5 billion a year extra would be available for social care. That would have a transformative impact on the sector. For example, £3.9 billion could pay for around an additional 240,000 care assistants, with £600 million left over to fully restore the nursing training bursary in England which since being removed has resulted in a 23% fall in nursing course applications.

“There is a raging argument within Government around how to raise taxes to pay for our health and social care needs. Well, here is a way to help save our NHS and social care system while restoring sanity to our aid budget – with the added benefit of avoiding increased taxes on hard-pressed families. It’s a win-win – if only there were politicians brave enough to pursue it.”

Robert Kilgour

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