Sunday, 3 July 2011

"Selling off the family home..."

Tomorrow Andrew Dilnot presents his report on the funding and structure of long-term care for the elderly - a subject of enormous importance but sadly one characterised by an obsession with not "selling off the family home". Take this example from the Sunday Telegraph - described as 'examining the issues' but, in reality, saying that it's terrible to have to sell the "family home". One case is cited at length:

This was precisely what happened to retired librarian Doris Cutler. At the age of 80, she was fit and well, and enjoying life in the bungalow overlooking Swansea Bay that she had bought with her husband 30 years ago.

After his death, she had been determined to stay in her home, surrounded by friends and neighbours. Even when signs of dementia emerged she was resolute, and an army of carers were hired to keep her at home.

After a fall this winter, at the age of 85, everything changed.

Her daughter Diana said: "It was just untenable for her to stay at home. She was extremely confused, and needed around-the-clock care and that meant a nursing home."

Selling the home was the only option.

Absolutely - a significant asset perhaps with sufficient capital to provide for a comfortable and dignified end to Mrs Cutler's life. What exactly is the problem? Are we suggesting - as this article does - that somehow using this capital is wrong? Or that taxpayers - many of them without good incomes or significant assets - should pay for Mrs Cutler's care so her daughter can inherit the "family home"?

And, of course, Mrs Cutler's home is not a 'family home' and this sort of statement presents a lie:

Inevitably, many who spend decades working hard to provide a home for their family, will still be forced to sell up when frailty overwhelms them. 

In the case cited the "family" appears to consist of a 53-year-old daughter - who is probably employed and living in her own "family home" somewhere else.  That is the typical situation - there will be exceptions (and, I've no doubt sad and tragic exceptions) but most octogenarians aren't providing a home for their families.

Rather than this emotional (and misleading) tugging at the heart-strings of family, we should be asking how we get people to plan for the likelihood of care requirements - indeed the inevitability of such needs. We should be speaking with our own families about how we deal with the funding of care. This means considering savings, releasing asset value and, yes, should it be necessary, selling property. After all, you can't take it with you, can you!



Dark Lochnagar said...

Exactly, the State should only be paying when there are no assets to be sold. Why should the State pay so that someone can inherit a house?

Clarissa said...

The 'selling the family home to pay for care' whine is a smokescreen. The truth is that they don't want to lose the nice little nest egg they thought that they were going to get when mum and dad finally toddled off.

Greed, not need.

My view is to sell the damn thing if needed. Obviously I hope my parents will not need care but if they do they the house will pay for it. Also means one less asset to take into account for death duties.

Leedsprinter said...

Quite agree. this debate is dominated by the 'Haves' - people who own houses and want others, including those on low incomes who can't afford to buy to support them through taxes. I own my own home and don't expect my friends in rented accom to find money for me to pass on to my comfortably off children.

Anonymous said...

All this does not answer the question, just what have these people been paying all their NI contributions for?

Simon Cooke said...

Well my dear Anonymous NI is a scam - and has been since it was introduced. Just a Ponzi Scheme with no 'insurance element' at all. Thise NI contributions have been treated exactly as general taxation - used by successive governments to do just what they wanted.