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Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Elderly Fit and the Elderly Frail

Governments want the votes of the elderly fit and don't give a toss about those who are beyond voting, the elderly frail. The frail get some incidental protection from the knowledge of the fit that you can go from one category to another overnight. A stroke can do it. But every recent Report has told us that the elderly frail are fairly comprehensively neglected.

So-called "Universal Benefits" for the over sixties are intended as vote winners and, in the case of the Bus Pass, as subsidies for the bus companies. They were not thought through in terms of things like fitness and frailty. But all things have unintended consequences.

So one reason I don't claim my Free Bus Pass is that I know that it would be a disincentive to walking into town. I do that several times a week and every time I walk I fulfill my government-prescribed Keep Fit exercise quota. And every time I walk I save a couple of quid.

A critic of my hostility to the Bus Pass writes that "the withdrawal of the free bus pass would impact massively on the frailer elderly for whom getting out of the house is important in maintaining health".

I agree that this Comment describes one of the unintended benefits of the Pass. Local buses are often Day Care centres on wheels and cheap at the price.

But this is not a good enough reason to give everyone a Bus Pass at sixty. It might be a reason to give everyone a Pass at seventy. But it is still a blunt instrument.

One person may find it convenient and enjoyable to shop daily, finding it manageable to carry bags on the bus. Another person may prefer a weekly shop and a taxi home with all their bags. They may no longer be strong enough to cope with the stop-start jolts of the average bus. But no one suggests a Taxi Pass.

My proposal is an income adequate for retired people to make their own choices, without top-up untargetted Universal Benefits which are primarily intended to make people feel Grateful to the Government.

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