Written by Malcolm Small on Monday 22 April 2013
A couple of weeks ago, to a fanfare of almost no publicity, the House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change, Chaired by Lord Filkin, launched the ‘Ready for Ageing?’ Report into the preparedness of government to deal with a rapidly ageing population. As the “baby boomers” are fast approaching retirement, in large numbers, this gigantic social policy issue is almost upon us. The report found government, and the wider population, far from ready, with the issues either not discussed or simply ignored.
Some of the numbers are frightening. By 2030, the population of over 85s will have increased by 101%. The number of dementia sufferers, requiring specialist care, will have increased by a staggering 85%, with nearly 2 million people, or 14% of the entire UK population, then suffering from the disease. The number of people with diabetes will have increased by 45%, those with arthritis, heart disease or strokes by 50% and the number of people needing moderate or severe social care up by 90%. Elder care takes the lion’s share of the NHS budget today, and both it, and the social care systems, creaking at the seams already. They will simply be unable to cope with the projected load.
The current UK system of DC pensions also came in for serious criticism, with the Committee concluding that it is “not fit for purpose” and suggesting that the industry and others search for a better alternative.
The Committee also suggested a wide range of reforms to improve matters, and a couple of Commissions in the next parliament, to move things forward. None of this comes for free, but if left unreformed will require an additional £50bn at today’s values to be committed to the NHS alone by 2020. This is clearly unaffordable. Some very, very hard choices lie ahead, and the population at large is unprepared. More at www.parliament.co.uk.