Thursday, 6 April 2017

Savers subsidise those who made no provision for old age

For those in the know, like our family, it came as no surprise when “news” broke this week that so called middle-class pensioners are being forced to pay higher care home fees to subsidise those who failed to save for their retirement.
It seems that MPs found that councils are telling private providers to increase costs for pensioners who have to pay the fees themselves, thereby subsidising cheaper, council-funded places for pensioners who don’t have savings.
All this mean that “middle-class” pensioners are being charged much more for the same room and level of service. The shock, horror news was revealed by the Commons communities and local government committee, which describes it as “unacceptable”.
The committee’s report quotes research suggesting that self-funders were paying an average of 43 per cent more than councils were paying for an identical care home place.
A study by Age UK last year said councils typically pay between £421 and £624 a week for each care home place, while self-funders are charged between £603 and £867.
That does not include specialist care, such as dementia, or nursing costs.
These extras, in our experience in Suffolk at least, pushed the weekly fees to between £1,000 and £1,450.
Currently, anyone who has assets of more than £23,250 in England must pay their own bills, and councils start to meet the costs only when the value of their assets falls below that threshold.
Mind you, that’s not strictly true. MIL’s assets, which I consider to be saleable items and cash, are well below that threshold but she is not eligible for any council or government help.
This is because she and FIL sold everything they had to buy annuities five years ago to put towards their care home fees. I say out towards because the annuities do not cover the total cost.
Anyway, back to committee’s report which revealed that “several care providers had been advised by councils that they should subsidise the council’s fees by charging higher rates for private clients”.
Whilst we were looking for a new dementia care home for MIL last year we discovered that Suffolk County Council had closed its 16 council-run homes and linked up with private care provider Care UK.
The council “backed” the building of half a dozen state-of-the-art Care UK homes across the county with the proviso that the residents from the 16 now closed homes be accommodated. Seems fair. But is it really?
The Council pays Care UK £650 a week per resident. MIL’s fees, as a private payer for exactly the same room, food, laundry services and care, ranged from £1,050 to £1,350 at the four Care UK homes we visited.
I’ll leave you to do the maths.

SWMBO and I are able to squirrel away a little cash each month from this blog for any future care needs we may face.
You may have noticed the advertisements on this page. I am delighted to reveal that your click-throughs have raised, to date, the princely sum of …… £3.61.
That’s 36 minutes of future residential care paid for. Thank you.

Friday, 10 March 2017

More proof that it pays to shop around
Most modern vehicles are, in reality, sophisticated computers on wheels.
But the on-board electronics can be, at times, just a little bit too clever.
Warning lights, signs and sounds abound. If your tyre pressure is low, your car will tell you.
Back in the day you knew the tyre pressure on your Mk1 Ford Cortina was low when the steering went wobbly and you became acquainted with a verge or, worst case scenario, a ditch.
An audible warning sounded earlier this week as SWMBO started up my car.
A loud beep as the car jumped into life was accompanied by a message on that little screen you glimpse through the steering wheel. Oil Service, it said.
Naturally, SWMBO reported this incident to her transport assistant, aka me. She was a little worried as she thought, quite naturally, that the oil was low.
Fortunately I had come across this warning in a previous car. The garage where we have our cars serviced programmes the computer to remind you when you are getting close to your next service.
So, there was no problem with the oil, but just a reminder. I don’t have a problem with that but the blessed warning will now strike ever time the car is started until we follow orders and take it in for its next service.
This, rather neatly I feel, leads me on to the nub of this missive.
Maybe it’s just me but you would think a standard service carried at a dealership for your particular make and model would cost the same whichever dealer you chose.
Wrong. I called three Ford (for it is they) dealers and prices quoted for EXACTLY the same service were £336, £295 and £245, all including labour and VAT.
The £91 I’ll be saving is an awful lot of wine.

Do you use Google maps? Do you trust Google maps?
Be careful as all is sometimes not what it seems.
I was searching on Google for a planning application in my local metropolis, Bury St. Edmunds.
I couldn’t find the details anywhere (maybe an application has not been submitted yet?) but Google, very helpfully, gave me a taster of a Google map with the applicant, which is currently a store, pinpointed on it.
Yep, there it was, right in the middle of town – in the middle of Nowton Park.
Which is not in the middle of town but a mile or two outside.
I’ve let Google know. Because worse than them making a mistake is a punter who knows it’s a mistake not telling them.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The ability to take responsibility and to move on

My ambivalence towards the Russian establishment has often confounded my friend. Have I ever visited the country, he asked? No, I said. Do I ever intend to? No, again. So what’s the problem?
It’s simple. My mother lived in Berlin through World War 2 and was 10 years old when the conflict ended. I cannot begin to imagine the horrors she and other members of my extended family faced.
In her later years bits and pieces of information came out when we chatted about the wonderful city of her, and my, birth.
Most of it was heart-warming and inspiring – I was well into my 30s before I found out that one of my great-aunts had hidden her Jewish neighbours from the Nazis. In her hollowed out floor-to-ceiling tile-faced oven in the kitchen. Amazing.
And she never had a really bad word about the French, British or Americans, even going out with a Brit she met during his two years’ National Service in the city in the late 1950s and then moving to the UK to marry him.
But some of her stories left me speechless, particularly about the Russian troops who entered the city after the defeat of Germany. Mum mentioned this to me just the once, in the 1980s, and never spoke of it again.
I refer to all this now because of something military historian Sir Antony Beevor said when he appeared on Desert Island Discs earlier this week.
Apparently he faces prison if he goes to Russia because of his account of the mass rape of German women by Stalin’s armies at the end of the war in his 2002 bestseller Berlin: The Downfall 1945, which led to Moscow passing a law banning criticism of the Red Army.
Sir Antony said: “Technically I am liable to five years’ imprisonment if I go back. The ambassador explained that the [Russian] victory in the war was sacred and obviously the appalling accounts of the rapes undermined the sacred element of the victory.”
The ambassador accused him of “lies, slander and blasphemy”.
Now I have nothing whatsoever against the people of Russia, just as I am certain that the majority of Brits don’t really hate the Germans.
History is littered with examples of man’s inhumanity to man. But what makes us different to other animals is the ability to take responsibility and to move on.

When will our government and the BBC stop going on about the "ageing population" who are putting a "strain" on the NHS? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people are living longer and therefore need more care.
We members of the “ageing population” are, after all, the people who worked all their lives to pay into the NHS so I think that makes us as entitled to use the service as anyone else. If there is a shortage of money in the NHS, the solution is straightforward – put more in.
And perhaps introduce a small charge for every non-emergency visit to a surgery or hospital. This could then be refunded via a tax rebate every April or May for people who have an NHS number or a tax reference. After all, we’ve already paid for the service via tax and NI.
It can’t be that difficult, in this technology-filled age, to keep a log of people’s payments. And anyone not entitled to use our NHS pay does not receive a refund. Simples?