Andrew Dilnot CBE

An intelligent voice is not always worth following, but it is always worth thoughtfully considering. As director for the Institute of Fiscal Studies for ten years, Andrew Dilnot CBE knows his money; and now as the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, you can bet he’s done his research too. Andrew Dilnot’s is certainly an intelligent voice.

Why, then, do I hear whispers of scepticism towards his proposals for fairer care funding? Are there are underlying suspicions of a prevailing conservative stereotype, hoarding the wealth of the rich? Short of an appeal to Dilnot’s personal character, I have no grounds on which to deny this appraisal of his motivations. However, with no evidence to support it either, the theory will remain simple conjecture, and its veracity bears no effect on the value of Dilnot’s proposals either way. So let’s examine the facts, and see if we can’t put these baseless suspicions to rest.

From where I’m standing, there are two major objections to the reforms. The first is aptly framed by Stephen Burke, founder of United for All Ages:

“Under the commission’s regressive proposals, the winners would be richer families whose inheritance will be relatively protected.”

With the briefest of appraisals, the proposals may seem to be largely motivated by a concern for the rich and their reluctance to give up their houses. I will not dive into a polemic about whether or not they should; I leave that to the mansion tax debaters. Instead, I will simply lay before you another public powerhouse with which (at least as a concept) no one seems to take issue: the NHS. Free healthcare for everyone, even if you could have afforded it. Is there much call for the wealthy to sell their houses to pay for the basic healthcare that everyone else gets for free? I thought not. That’s because we consider health to be a fundamental human right. Whether you agree with the founding principle or not, there is little arguing that care for the young and care for the elderly are very different.

There’s more to be considered. Many wealthy individuals have consciously invested in their futures, and in the futures of their children. Take away the reward of that investment, and you take away the motivation. Why strive for money that you will not ultimately be allowed to keep? This lack of impetus can only spell bad news for the economy, and that brings us neatly on to the second major objection.

The Dilnot report offers a predicted cost of these changes at around £2 billion. Admittedly, in a time of recession, this seems like a lot. Opponents of the system will bandy around the word ‘billion’ because they know that at its very utterance, readers recoil into that part of themselves that doesn’t understand numbers. Let’s put the figure in perspective. The Telegraph published predictions based on previous spending that in 2013, the UK would consume £4.4 billion worth of chocolate. So, in reality, what will it cost us to ensure the UK’s care for the future? Less than half of our annual chocolate allowance; a mars bar a week each. I’m not exaggerating. Suggestions that the country cannot afford these reforms are needlessly sensationalist. It’s simply a matter of priorities.

The voice of social justice is speaking out for the poor and we find Dilnot’s proposals on the receiving end of the diatribe. But the statistics don’t lie – everyone’s a winner in this change, and we can afford it. Yes, some will win bigger than others, and no, the problem of poor quality elderly care is far from being solved. ‘But it can be tempting, when all you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.’ There are undoubtedly further issues to solve, but there are other tools with which to solve them. Andrew Dilnot is not trying to remedy all the world’s problems; he’s just starting by untangling this one.

BY: David Salisbury