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You've worked hard, and paid the state handsomely for the privilege. Long ago, you made a prudent investment in your own home, to which you've naturally grown attached. You've probably paid off the mortgage. Gratifyingly, the modest property has increased in value. You hope to pass on this treasured asset to your children, helping to compensate for the difficulty they've been having in affording homes of their own. 

But your health is failing. Your kids are worried; they don't live nearby, and last night making dinner you set the kitchen on fire. You may have lost your spouse, or your spouse, too, has grown fragile. A broken hip or alarming memory loss presses the issue: it's time for residential care.

Yet to your nauseous astonishment, care home fees in your country average £36,000 per year, and upwards of £45,000 in the south-east (prices sure to keep rising). Since you've paid your own way for decades, and carried others besides, you imagine that your government will surely pick up the tab.  You've contributed far more to the system than you ever took out, and for the first time you need something back.

Another surprise: if you have assets of more than £23,250 — chump change, since that includes the value of your beloved house, and that miserable threshold has just been frozen for the next two years — you're on your own. You'll have to sell the house. It doesn't seem fair.

Think again. The word "fair" in your country has a very specific meaning: "removes a maximum amount of money from people who earn it and gives it to people who don't". In which case your paying for your old age, after having paid for many of your compatriots' old ages while you were working, is very, very fair.

But all three political parties claimed in the last general election that in these circumstances they would let you keep your house. Don't be a sucker. They've got your vote already. 

Addressing a London think-tank in February as a member of a three-man advisory commission on this very subject, Lord Warner was more candid. To meet the escalating costs of the elderly, housing assets represent "a big chunk of potential resource" too juicy to resist. "Any fantasy about 100 per cent universal state provision," he said starkly, "forget it."

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Mike Walsh
April 25th, 2011
7:04 PM
Can't speak for the British, but I'm quite sure that if Obama isn't stopped, my generation of Americans and those following will be euthanized when the state decides we've hung about long enough.

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