It’s easy to make fun of the House of Lord’s, and I am as guilty as anyone for doing so. I often watch them on television, some of them near to or well into a sleeping mode as befits elderly people. The recent unsuccessful attempt by the Liberal Democratic members of the Coalition government to reform the Lords’ seems to have reinvigorated them, for the red benches are often quite full and the (nontaxable) £300 attendance allowance can’t be the only reason for this, though that surely is an incentive. They seem to have rediscovered a role as the critical reviewer of government policy and have had some successes in this regard recently.
Yesterday the Lord’s ‘Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change’ published the report ‘Ready for Ageing’? They answer their question with a resounding ‘no’ and make a series of recommendations to do with work, housing, pensions, health and social care (the inter-dependent nature of the two is unsustainable, they say); and make pertinent recommendations to government.
The UK population is ageing rapidly, but the government and society are woefully unprepared for that eventuality. ‘Longer lives can be a great benefit, but there has been a collective failure to address the implications and without urgent action this great boon could turn into a series of miserable crises’.
The report argues for a radical response to our newly ageing population and suggests that political parties should be expected to issue position papers within the next eighteen months and include their proposals in the 2015 Election manifestos. The report urges the government to set out their vision of public services in an ageing society in a White Paper (the preliminary for a parliamentary Bill) to be published well before the next general election.
Two cross-party commissions should be appointed within six months of the 2015 Election, they suggest.
The first of these would be to work with employers and financial services providers to examine how to improve pensions, savings and equity release; and the other would analyse the health and social care system and how it’s funding could be changed to serve the needs of an ageing population. Both should be required to report within twelve months and make clear recommendations for urgent implementations.
But will these recommendations be anything other than a repeated cry from the margins of society, as have so many others? My impression is that the present coalition government is falling to pieces, with Prime Minister Cameron making miscalculation after miscalculation. I can’t see how a major issue such as the Lords’ point to in their report is going to get the attention it deserves.
The government is into survival and are clutching at straws. Strategic long-term planning is not on their agenda
I hope I am wrong.