Editorial from the March 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
If there is one thing that capitalism is good at and that is generating crises. A report by the charity, Age UK, has warned that social care in England is facing collapse in certain areas. Increasing numbers of elderly people find themselves being denied the healthcare they need. Is this because there are not enough trained staff and care facilities available ? No, there are plenty of those. As ever in capitalism, the problem boils down to money, or in this case, the lack of it.
According to a report from the Nuffield Trust, Central Government funding for local authorities in England has been reduced by 14 percent in real terms from 2011/12 to 2014/15. At the same time, the number of people over the age of 85 has risen by a third. As the amount of fees paid by local authorities for care homes has fallen and staff costs have risen, many care homes have been forced to close. The upshot is that many old people are having to stay in NHS hospitals. The Local Government Association estimates that there will be at least a £2.6 billion shortfall in the provision of social care by 2020.
David Hodge, the Conservative leader of the Surrey Council, was moved to call a referendum to raise council taxes by 15 percent to ease the financial shortages. However, this plan has since been abandoned and the council has settled for a rise of 5 percent. Some suspect that a 'sweetheart' deal was arranged in that the government would provide more funds to the council if it dropped its plans for a referendum.
The crisis has fallen hardest on working class people from poorer areas. In more wealthy areas, greater income from business rates and more prosperous pensioners contributing to their own care have softened the impact of reduced funding.
It is not only elderly people who are affected, many disabled people have found themselves without the care they need and some have become more ill as a result.
Why are funds for social care being slashed ? The answer lies in the austerity cuts that the government have imposed in response to the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The government had to cut its own spending in order to improve its own finances and reduce the financial burden on businesses, so that they may become profitable again. The cuts, inevitably, had to fall on welfare services.
The leftists blame the Tories and call for more social spending. However, Labour governments in the 1960s and 1970s were compelled to cut their expenditure in response to the economic crises that they faced. In the 2010 General Election, Labour, like the Tories, pledged to make large public expenditure cuts.
The Junior Health Minister David Mowat, has suggested that families should do more to care for their elderly relatives. So, according to him, the crisis is not a social problem, but a case of selfish workers failing in their family duties.
This appalling treatment of working class elderly and other 'vulnerable' people reveals yet again that under capitalism profits must come before human welfare.