One of the most active groups in modern society is the pensioners' movement.
This is for two good reasons. Firstly they remember the periods before and after the Second World War and the pressures which led to the welfare state. Secondly, they are suffering from neglect and the increasing disparity of wealth within society.
Help the Aged has done an invaluable service in providing solid evidence on which we can campaign.
Not enough money is being put into the social care of the elderly. 'Nothing Personal: Rationing Social Care for Older People' is an extensive report looking at all the factors related to social care and is based on detailed research into six representative authorities.
The report identifies the turning point as the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 which led to major changes in the way in which resources for social care were used. Most local authorities found increasing problems in balancing the rising demand for services with finite resources. The response was that resources were targeted at the more heavily dependent. A major consequence has been that preventive systems have been lost. The evidence suggests that those in institutional care are increasingly dependent, particularly in terms of mental health needs.
Social services share boundaries with health and housing. They have had to take on board changes in health care policy in relation to long term care needs, early discharge from hospital, and restrictions of health service responsibility for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Long term care provision for older people had its roots in the Poor Law reflecting the fact that older people's problems were seen, until recently, as one of poverty. This has meant personal social care has been means tested. The extension of home ownership in the last 25 years has meant that a majority of home owners are potentially brought within the means testing net.
Government, as a result of public pressure, has seen the need to put resources into the health service. There is an equal need to put resources into social care. We are the fourth richest country in the world. What is needed is a better sense of priorities and a recognition that a civilised society cannot ignore the needs of its elderly people. For details phone Help the aged--020 7278 1116, or go to www.helptheaged.org.uk
Ralph A Tebbutt
Honorary Secretary, Medway Pensioners' Forum