I am not sure there has ever been a more significant return to business in the House of Commons as there was on Monday, certainly in modern peacetime. Whilst every effort has been made to keep things running through the last 18 months, it has been a frustrating time. As things began to approach normal this week I was again thankful for the opportunity I have to get back to making the case on range of local issues.
With the return of all the MPs to Westminster has come a significant disagreement over the issue social care, or how we best look after the more elderly and vulnerable in our society. During the pandemic a slightly less consensual style of Government has emerged and the Government proposal of raising National Insurance has highlighted this issue.
For twenty years or more no one has really got to grips with how we ensure older people have the care and dignity they deserve in later life, in particular when they have dementia or related conditions. We absolutely need to find a long term and sustainable solution to getting more money into the system and, crucially, a plan to make sure it is well spent. Unfortunately I don't believe the current plan will achieve this and it does not fit with the platform I was elected on and the beliefs I have about the best interests of you my constituents, so I need to oppose and try to shape it through amendments and negotiation.
Aside from the reform package not really fixing social care and seeming more about getting cash to the NHS to deal with COVID recovery, a permanent National Insurance rise is the wrong funding mechanism. It is a tax on workers and employers which is the last thing the country needs. Young people in their first jobs and on low incomes will be paying towards the care of some very wealthy pensioners. It is a tough message for them that older people don’t want to sell sometimes very valuable homes or pay a contribution from non-dividend income to pay for their care, when in some cases they find it hard to see when they will be able to afford to buy a home of their own.
It also makes no economic sense. If people were incentivised to go into a pooled insurance or other risk defraying savings scheme earlier in their lives, their contributions could have decades to grow in value. National Insurance is raised and spent within the same financial year. Other countries have great schemes to incentivise early provision and that’s what we should be looking at too. It is not about privatising healthcare as this sort of residential care is already outside of the NHS.
The Government has shown that it can be forward thinking and innovative over the last 18 months and to really positive effect. They have got it wrong with this one though. I will be working hard not just to make the Government reconsider the National Insurance raise but also to present viable and fully costed alternatives which I am sure can meet current needs in a better way.
As always, I am very keen to hear Somerset opinions on this issue so please do get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01935314321 if you would like to share your thoughts.