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Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Should we trust the state to provide?

A team of leading UK doctors has called the provision of care for the elderly "a national disgrace" and a "lottery" that depends on where you live. The Government has said it will review funding for long-term care in the summer.

With populations in developed countries getting older and living longer, welfare provision is under increasing strain. Governments are encouraging, or forcing, people to take out private pensions and make their own arrangements for old age.

So will the welfare state still be there when the next generation retires? Should we expect the state to provide for us in old age? Will it be able to cope?

HAVE YOUR SAY

We have brought up a generation that expects the state to look after them with no family loyalty, anymore. Yes scrap state pensions and let us go back to being responsible for our own kin.
Audrey Wilkinson, Saudi Arabia



Either provide free care for all or for none, let's cut the emotive twaddle about it being wrong to have worked for your riches.

John, UK
I think it's nothing short of a national disgrace when those who have saved throughout their lives are expected to watch everything they have worked for stripped away to pay care costs. While those who have made no effort at all get given everything. What's the point of looking after yourself when the government will take it all away, when if you live for now the government will pick up the pieces? The systems of means-testing only encourages dishonesty, as people hide their means away to avoid having what is rightfully theirs taken away. Either provide free care for all or for none, let's cut the emotive twaddle about it being wrong to have worked for your riches.
John, UK

I can't believe some of the whines and moans expressed by some contributors to this debate. In Britain we are lucky enough to possess a system of healthcare which is, in general, both very good and free. The private nursing homes for our elderly occasionally throw up scandals but, for my parents and all the other old people that I have encountered, the levels of health care and other state assistance has been just fine.
Roy Brown, United Kingdom

One can only be sure of two things in life: death and taxes.
V Dodino, UK

I'll bet that governments on all levels could save considerable money by just overhauling their purchasing methods for common materials like paper, pens, car buying/leasing process, what ever you like. Waste goes deeper than having too many secretaries or having two Jags.
Lance, New York



British people have little to complain about, you could wind up with worse; the USA's health care system!

Stephen Kenney, USA
At least yours tries¿. We have over 45 million people without the slightest bit of health care coverage, they get sick, they either pay huge costs, or die - Great choice! I pay an extra $250 a month for health and dental coverage and arguably my individually bought HMO care is as bad, if not worse than NHS. British people have little to complain about, you could wind up with worse; the USA's health care system!
Stephen Kenney, USA

Our current ways of supporting society will almost certainly fail, but that does not mean that we should just give up. There is always change, and there were those who believed that the planet would never support all the extra people. We just find different ways of doing things. We need to find fresh and different ways to care. They may be radical, but they do not have to be callous.
Ed Manning, UK

When you trust the government to provide anything you end up paying more and getting less.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

My Mother had a massive stroke within 6 weeks of retiring and selling a very large house and a very good family business - that was 13 years ago. There is very little money left now and she now has to rely upon the State to make up the nursing home bills. The vast majority of Homes are poorly run by ill equipped and poorly trained staff who do not have the time to care/nurse as staffing levels and wages are so low. It disgusts me to see the way people like my Mother end up like this, having worked very very hard all their lives and never once had any help from the State. Where has all the National Insurance and tax gone that both my parents worked so hard to pay?
Hilary, England

As a 28-year-old cancer sufferer whose six-month pay allowance has ended. I now find myself in serious financial difficulty since the benefits agency will only pay out about a tenth of what I would normally get monthly. Being in the 40% tax bracket - I find it unbelievable that the Government does not look sufficiently after its own.
Stephen Morrell, United Kingdom



Can we still think of ourselves as a 'caring society?' I don't think so.

A, UK
When my grandmother knew she was dying, she hid her meagre savings, eked out from years of living on a basic state pension, all around the house. It was her way of providing for my grandfather, because she knew that if she saved more, he would be denied state help for the care he needed. My grandmother brought up five children, worked, acted as an unpaid carer for several relatives and her husband. Yet she was reduced to hiding money behind the wallpaper. This is an outrageous state of affairs. Can we still think of ourselves as a 'caring society?' I don't think so.
A, UK

When are we all going to come to terms with the fact that most of us will be old one day? In our young years we and the government should be providing for our old age in a way that ensures that no pensioner is ever in need.
Joseph Robert James, UK



My advise is "Start saving"

Anthony, UK
Unfortunately it is never possible for any State to provide the money necessary for total Medical Care. With the rise in cases of Alzheimer's Disease it is left to charitable organisations like Methodist Homes for the Aged to pioneer care for those people affected. And even then they only scratch the surface of the numbers they can help. We live in a Society which values cars and foreign holidays over health care, and it will never be politically acceptable for any Government to tax enough to ensure we get the best health care. My advise is 'Start saving'.
Anthony, UK

Oh when will people realise that trusting in government is a bad thing. That's why labour governments have been so poor - they don't see the value in letting people spend and save as they see fit themselves. Anyone with a bit of common sense should see that adding a bit of private enterprise will give the tax payers some sort value for money.
Peter B., USA (ex UK)

The current NI and pensions model assumes the following. You work for 40 years. You retire. You die a few years later. Reality - we now live an extra 15 to 20 years, and have the benefit of modern (expensive!) medicines sustaining our ageing bodies practically indefinitely. Something has to give. Let people be responsible for their own care. As is being encouraged with personal pensions, get people to save into old age healthcare insurance plans. This could easily apply to anybody under 35, and those over that age could contribute smaller amounts, with the state guaranteeing the difference (up to 100%) as people age. If you don't make the savings, then don't expect the state to sustain you through your latter years.
Vernon Bigg, UK



My generation (under 30's) are paying for present pensioners, contributing to our own state pensions which we will never receive and saving for our own pensions. Nice and fair having to pay 3 times for 1 pension really.

Tim G, UK
Despite the fact that a healthy chunk of my paycheck goes to Social Security, I cannot depend on the government to support me in my old age. Uncertainty has forced most people my age and younger to realize the value of compounding interest. If you have been fortunate enough to amass some money or property throughout your life, spend it or give it away while you can still enjoy doing so.
Faye, USA

I would like to know how the current generation of people in their fifties, who were "downsized" and now find it impossible to get a job (thanks to ageism) are supposed to provide for their pensions? Fifteen years, from 50 to 65, is a long time to keep yourself, and any savings will certainly have evaporated in that time.
M Clague, UK

Cradle to grave security was and is a wonderful concept....but the reality is that we are now living beyond the 60 to 70 year life span. Unless we are prepared to considerably reduce our disposable income by paying more taxes, how on earth can we sustain the current demands on the health system? This is a problem that is faced by Canada and Britain....Britain is at least acknowledging the problem by allowing Private Health care....Canada is fighting the concept.
Pat van der Veer, Nova Scotia, Canada

Of course we can't trust the state to provide - we have to force it to just as we can't can't trust it on anything else. Those of us who are earning today have one of two options - fight for a decent set of benefits for all or say I'm alright Jack I've got my private pension.
Nick Savage, UK

Having nursed for many years I dread the treatment I have seen in some elderly residential homes.
Juliet, U K



Having nursed for many years I dread the treatment I have seen in some elderly residential homes.

Juliet, UK
My generation (under 30's) are paying for present pensioners, contributing to our own state pensions which we will never receive and saving for our own pensions. Nice and fair having to pay 3 times for 1 pension really. No point relying on that though, as their will be so many pensioners when I hit 65, and we will all be living so long, annuity rates will probably be 2% so we need to contribute £1200 per month now just to get average earnings, but that's another story.
Tim G, UK



It may not be ethically perfect to default on a political promise made 50 years ago, but we clearly can't sustain a state pension or elderly care scheme for everybody

Joel, UK
The question was "should we expect the state to provide for us in old age?" Given the difficulty we're currently having before the bulk of the baby-boomers hit retirement, the answer, surely, is "no". It may not be ethically perfect to default on a political promise made 50 years ago, but we clearly can't sustain a state pension or elderly care scheme for everybody. Those who can afford to pay for it themselves are missing the point when they claim it's unfair because they are penalised for having been successful - there is no reason on earth why the state should provide services for free to people who can afford to buy them.
Joel, UK

Oh yes, we can trust the state. That's why I have a private pension for retirement, health insurance for when I'm sick, house insurance in case of theft, life assurance to provide for my family if I die... Fortunately, I earn enough to be able to have these things. People that don't are going to get an increasingly poor deal as services are cut by successive governments.
Andrew Dowle, UK



Bottom line is that everyone will have to look after themselves - or plan to at least


Mike, UK

I am afraid that we can debate this until the 'cows' come home. Bottom line is that everyone will have to look after themselves - or plan to at least. Don't rely on the State if you're planning just to pay N.I. in all your life. Sad reflection but unfortunately it is the present reality. The baby boomers of the 60's and 70's cannot be expecting the unborn of the 21st century to support them. I certainly won't be expecting them to and neither should anyone else..........
Mike, UK

There is one simple answer as far as I am concerned. Tax the rich and support the poor.
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands

Demographics will destroy most public retirement and health care systems. There just won't be enough young workers to pay for all that care.
Reynard, US

At present the state will provide everything if an old person has savings of £8,000 or less. This means that people who have been thrifty are effectively penalised in old age by having to contribute to care costs.

Those who own their own property are often forced to sell up to cover costs, which may go on for many years. However I think there should be a clear distinction as to who pays what. The state should pay for all nursing care and the individual should only have to meet the cost of shelter.

There is a school of thought that the state should meet everything and people should not be forced to sell their homes. But how can it be acceptable for the elderly requiring full time care to then be able to leave their properties for their children to inherit, when those children take no part in providing long term care.
JN, England



The notion that the National Insurance contributions we make are held as savings and repaid to us by the Government in our time of need has, sadly, no basis in reality

Henry Case, UK
The notion that the National Insurance contributions we make are held as savings and repaid to us by the Government in our time of need has, sadly, no basis in reality. The Government doesn't save your NI contributions; it spends them on other people, while keeping its fingers crossed that you won't need them back for a good long while. Unfortunately, with the average age of the population rising, crossed fingers aren't going to be enough. That's why I'd advise anyone who can, to start making provision for themselves now.
Henry Case, UK

It makes me really angry to see the people to whom we owe everything treated so poorly.
Alex, UK

If your government is anything like ours in Canada, the only thing you can depend on in the insatiable greed for more taxes. Politicians take care of their own first, second and foremost. Ours have set up pensions and severance packages for themselves that can only be termed obscene. A year in wages severance, and 60% of their bloated salaries for pension, that starts as soon as they are thrown out of office. Meanwhile we have seniors on the streets because they can't afford to live.
Collin, Canada



I fear that as the population demographics change there will be to few young people working to support the older generation

Glenn Hinks, USA
I fear that as the population demographics change there will be to few young people working to support the older generation. This is becoming fact. Nothing will be done because government needs the votes of the old people who receive these benefits, and they themselves feel that they are owed them. No one owes any one anything and the sooner we realise this the better.
Glenn Hinks, USA



The younger ones can start building private pensions now but for middle aged and above it is too late

John, UK
I fully expect to receive no state pension when I retire. I expect that my company scheme will provide some income and I am convinced that the value of the state pension to me will be nothing. What I do not understand is why I still have to pay NI contributions for something I will never see ?

The answer lies in recognising who is paying the pension for the current OAPs. The current OAPs keep telling us "I paid in for 30 years" but that money was spent giving the OAPs back then a pension. Now the whole house of cards is about to fall in and it is the current middle aged people who get left holding the can. The younger ones can start building private pensions now but for middle aged and above it is too late.
John, UK

I believe we can trust the State to provide healthcare and I also believe that the NHS has turned a corner on the long road to recovery. However I do not believe that the State will provide adequate pensions ever again. The population is still ageing and will continue to do so until the baby boomer generation of the 50s has shuffled on, which to my mind means 2025 at the earliest. In the meantime those that can afford it are opting out of the state scheme and are focussing their funds on company and private schemes. I think we should not be surprised to see the state scheme phased out in preference to means tested State benefits.
Duncan, UK

After paying NI tax all my life I fully expect that there will no service left by the time I retire even though those taxes are supposed to go towards it. I greatly resent paying for services which simply do not function anymore. No matter how well we plan in old age we should be able to expect support in times of need when things go wrong... after a life time of tax payments the government have robbed the elderly if they do not. Either that or scrap the whole thing and stop taxing us for it so we can AFFORD our own pensions.
Dawn, UK



In the UK I know that the same level of nanny state assistance won't be available when I grow old quite simply because the drain on the national resource would be too big. That's just facing facts

Chris Chivers, UK
I certainly won't be relying on the state in my old age. I am in the fortunate position of being relatively youthful and have many years of high earning potential ahead of me. Unfortunately, many other people my age have little to look forward to. They don't have the means to pay for private medical insurance, they will be relying on the state pension and they have little or no savings of their own.
Dr. S, UK

In the UK I know that the same level of nanny state assistance won't be available when I grow old quite simply because the drain on the national resource would be too big. That's just facing facts. I expect to have to provide for myself but I do object to having to save for myself now whilst still paying to keep those who didn't do it them selves as they grew old. Why should I bear two burdens whilst they have effectively had a free ride?
Chris Chivers, UK

The only people you can expect the state to provide for are the people in control of it (and their friends) - and they after all are doing no more than the rest of us would in their position, which is taking care of Number One.
phil, uk

If I am not paying my NI to entitle me to sickness, old age and unemployment benefits, what am I paying for? People who work all their lives and pay into the State are entitled to expect a reasonable standard of living and care when they are no longer capable of supporting themselves. The Government even taxes what I put away for my later life and will tax the pension it pays and the pension I've paid into to support myself. We can't 'give give give' without being entitled to expect some benefit - and I don't mean luxury provided by the State, just adequate care and income. My father saved for his retirement then had to spend almost all of it on a private triple bypass operation because he would have died before reaching the top of the NHS waiting list - at 78, he was not considered as much of a priority as younger men.
Jenni, UK



People who work all their lives and pay into the State are entitled to expect a reasonable standard of living and care when they are no longer capable of supporting themselves.

Jenni, UK
The way this country is going at the moment is that you have to provide everything for yourself. Private pensions and healthcare are required if you want to live comfortably in the future. I also seem to remember that the Tories mentioned scrapping the state pension for those that do not need it. Jolly good idea if you ask me. It will mean more money for those who need it and no money for those who don't. With the average age of the population increasing and the birth rate falling something radical has to be done now before there is a major crisis in the future.
Dominic, UK

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