Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 26 January 2012


One of the greatest challenges facing the Coalition government in this Parliament is to finally resolve how we are going to care for our growing number of elderly people over the coming decades. With life expectancy now in the mid- 80's and rising, with the news that one half of all babies born now will live to be 100, this challenge is only going to increase.

The demographic reality obviously places a huge extra burden, year on year, on our health service. If you go and sit in the entrance foyer of Derriford Hospital you will see for yourself the age profile of the vast majority of people coming in for treatment.  Any suggestion that there should be some age restriction on certain types of treatment is unacceptable in civil society, so the costs will rise each year mirroring the leap in life expectancy.

It also presents a challenge to the funding of residential care. Who should pay if you can no longer cope at home and have to go into a Care Home? The current system is that if you have capital above certain limits, you should pay yourself even if it means selling the family home. If your capital falls below the threshold, the state will pick up the tab. This system is unpopular at both ends: nobody likes the prospect of selling the home to pay the fees and many families find a way round it; and the costs to the exchequer continue to rocket.

All parties went into the last election with a range of proposals, none of which quite seemed to match the scale of the challenge. In 2010 the government set up an independent commission to look into this problem, the Dilnot Commission. This reported last July (read the full report at with a number of recommendations that the government is still pondering. Its primary suggestion is that each person would have to contribute up to a maximum of £35,000 towards the costs of residential care and after that the state would pay the rest. This figure could come from insurance, savings, house sale or whatever. It would in most cases prevent the family home having to be sold. The policy would cost the tax payer about £1.2 billion a year.

The government is still considering this but must make an announcement shortly if we are to legislate in the next session of Parliament. What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 00:00