Thursday, 27 January 2011
Care and the Tesco Tax
In the past few weeks I've had quite a bit to do with care homes or, to be more precise, one such establishment. Not so long ago it would have been called a Nursing Home - a haven for those who required professional nursing care - but now all such places are called care homes. Not so long ago we also had Homes for the Elderly and we knew they provided for those older people who could no longer fend for themselves. Now they too are called care homes.
We were all aware Homes for the Elderly weren't Nursing Homes but nowadays, with all homes classed as care homes, it's up to the service user (must stick to the jargon) to telephone or visit each home to enquire about services. Not an easy task for someone in immediate need of care for a relative.
Dame Jo Williams, the chairwoman of the Care Quality Commission (in England), has warned that conditions in Nursing Homes across England could deteriorate as owners 'cut corners' to save money. Nothing new there because care homes are now private businesses and profits have to be made. Initially I thought Dame Jo Williams' comment was concern for the service users within nursing homes, but with further reading the article is more about the reduction in the CQC's budget rather than an interest in those her organisation was set up to protect.
My expectation was that the newly appointed Dame would have some positive ideas about how we (and I mean the UK) are going to cope with the increase in the number of older people who, because we are living longer, may require care home accommodation. The question does need addressed but, as there are no clear answers which don't involve extra finance, politicians and the English CQC see no urgency. That doesn't bode well for my generation in England.
In Scotland we have a slightly different problem because our government policy is to provide free nursing care for people of any age and free personal and nursing care for anyone over 65 who has been assessed by the local authority as needing it. The care can be in a care home or the service user's own home. It's a very worthy policy and highly regarded by older generations because it gives us the security of knowing that we will be cared for come what may and it works reasonably effectively given the amount of people - and thus bureaucracy - involved.
However, such policies are expensive, very expensive, because caring and nursing involves many professionals who have to be paid. Even those of younger generations are beginning to see the benefits of our Free Care for the Elderly because many have now experienced the help it gives to an elderly relative.
Yesterday the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Communities Committee voted down the SNP's proposal to increase rates for big stores (nicknamed the Tesco Tax). John Swinney's assessment was the tax would raise £30 million, but the committee's move means it is now likely to be defeated when the proposal comes before the full parliament next week.
The supermarkets are cock-a-hoop at this decision of course. It had been estimated that Tesco would pay an extra £9m a year, Asda £8.8m, Morrisons £4.4m, Sainsbury's £3.5m and B & Q an extra £2m. M & S would pay £1.3m more while the tax would also apply to big names such as Ikea, John Lewis, Primark and Debenhams.
John Swinney told the committee that the retail tax would affect about 0.1% of businesses and was needed to relieve pressure on family and household budgets during tough economic times.
The committee split down party lines as seems to be the norm these days in Parliament. Not one of the political opposers suggested where the now lost £30m could be found to permit us to fund our priorities such as Care for the Elderly. I have to agree with John Swinney when he said:
"It's an appropriate financial measure to take, which gives the government the opportunity to raise a modest amount of revenue from a highly profitable sector that is contributing to the public purse of Scotland and enables us, then, to afford some of our other priorities." source
The Scottish Parliament's committee system used to be respected for its non-partisan approach. Recently this appears to have been lost and the system will struggle to regain any credibility unless MSPs put aside their electioneering tactics and view the bigger picture.
You may be wondering what yesterday's Tesco Tax decision has to do with Scotland policy of caring for the elderly. It may well have none but, then again, the short-sightedness of unionist politicians not to support this minimal tax rise with big business may well affect it. Someone has to be the loser don't they?