So, the political mud-slinging has begun in earnest. As the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats all strive to tell you how bad the others are (or would be), reasoned debate goes out of the window.
The Tories have landed the first blow, accusing Labour of planning a £20,000 “Death Tax” to be levied on all estates after death.
To ram the point home, a new poster was revealed depicting a gravestone engraved with ‘RIP Off’ (see what they did there?) and the slogan: ‘Now Gordon wants £20,000 when you die.’
Health secretary Andy Burnham has rejected this accusation (or hinted that the party is planning it, depending on which paper you read), saying that “firm proposals” will be set out before the election – one assumes he means the White Paper on adult social care funding, which is still being promised, although time is fast running out if it is to appear before the election.
Currently, Labour is sticking to its line that it is considering the outcomes of the Big Care Debate, which took place last autumn after the release of the green paper on the future of adult social care funding.
The Conservatives have said even less, apart from their £8,000 voluntary insurance scheme.
Responding to this, another other related stories, Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, a charity that works with older people, their families and carers, has appealed for an “honest and serious” debate that recognises that better care will cost more, and that radical reform and proper funding is required.
While many people in the social care sector will agree wholeheartedly with that call, the chances of such a debate happening are virtually nil.
Also, any hopes of a cross-party consensus on the future of social care – something various social care commentators have called for – now appear dead and buried.
With the parties now getting into the swing of electioneering, everything they say will be geared to getting your vote. So a reasoned debate on the future of care funding will not happen, because it will require some tough – i.e. not popular – decisions to be made, if a crisis of care is to be averted. No politician is going to say anything that might lose them votes.