Spending Public Money on the Public

Who Should have Priority, the Elderly or the Young?

The most vulnerable people in our society are the elderly and the young. Both require care and nurturing.

Unfortunately the public purse has little left in it, and with the number of people working and contributing tax getting fewer, the future for any additional public funding is looking a negative prospect.

The birth rate in the UK is increasing by around 2.4% annually and the population projections are for 5½ million more elderly people in 20 years time and the number will have nearly doubled to around 19 million by 2050. Currently over 2 million people over the age of 75 live alone.

So when it comes to which group should have public money, which group should be chosen, bearing in mind the hard fact that the public purse does not have the financial resources to substantially fund care for both.

Not only is the whole system in debt, there is still the unequal geographical bias as to what funding and services you can have where you live. This applies to services and amenities for the young and the old.

Day centres for the elderly are being closed throughout the country. The day centres which provided lonely, elderly people with services and friendship. Research suggests that loneliness in elderly people can have health consequences on a par with smoking, obesity and alcohol. The result, more accidents within the home and visits and stays in hospital, an expensive option.

Hundreds of thousands of elderly people are cared for by their families, their friends and voluntary organisations. Such care is a complex option as families seek to juggle times of care with work, children and a home life. Friends helping are involved in similar lifestyle problems. Voluntary organisations are dependent on funding, number of volunteers, their work and family commitments, etc.

Nursery education for children from as young as three months to school age is available. The percentage of children age 3-4 years taking up free education places is 93%, approx.1.25 million children.

Nursery education is a relatively new educational forum. Many of the family carers today, did not have access to such facilities when they were of the same age or their children were in that age range.

The reason being that it was accepted that if you had young children, for their first few years you stayed at home to care for them. Living on one income was not an easy option, but the principle was that you had made a choice in your wish to raise a family and other preferences were put on hold.

‘Personal choices’ are words which have been the ‘flavour of the month’ for the last two decades. Choice as to how we live, how we spend our money, what goods and services we seek and think we should be entitled to, etc. to enable us to have the life we quite simply, want.

This in itself can be a good thing but what if having a choice means that you are depriving others of even a basic choice?

The funding from the public purse giving very young children into the care of others in order that parents can work to improve their material lifestyle, when contrasted with an older person, living on their own, not speaking to a soul for days, their luncheon club and their day centre closed down, should not sit too comfortably.

Viewing it from a pragmatic view point, young children do have people to care for them, a parent, hundreds of thousands of older people have no one. Without a doubt the older person is the most vulnerable.

Government policy should swiftly reflect the situation of caring for elderly people that becomes more of a problem each week. Deciding who pays for care is one issue but the quickest and an effective remit would be to stop the closures of any further day centres or luncheon clubs, put a cap on any charges that are payable, revive grants for volunteer, drivers organisations etc.

The existing public purse needs to prioritise its spending and looking at the situation fairly and rationally, our older citizens should come first.

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