Perhaps the least fashionable cause in Britain is the welfare of its elderly. At least 35,000 old men and women will die from the cold this winter: a staggering, scandalous figure. Britain is a rich nation, there are many ingenious and inexpensive ways to heat a house, yet every August, when the number of “excess winter deaths” are disclosed, the extent of Britain’s national incompetence or indifference becomes clear. No one asks why so many more pensioners die each winter in Britain than in some other countries. The winter cull of our elderly has become accepted as part of national life.
The Australian; The Spectator, No Internet Text
Had 35,000 died from the heat, there would have been an outcry. Seven years ago, a heatwave was blamed for 2000 deaths across the country, and it was regarded as the most urgent political priority.
Alarmists such as David King, then chief scientific adviser, claimed that global warming was a greater threat to Britain than terrorism.
But what of the cold? Why such a silence from Westminster? Is it because those who die of cold are often in their 70s or 80s and may not make it to the polling station? It’s easy for a politician, warm and full after a subsidised lunch, to forget that they too will be old one day.
But the elderly are without doubt those to whom we owe the greatest debt. They are the generation who defended the country, who went on to build it with a lifetime of labour, and of high tax contributions. The generation who were promised and paid for a “cradle to grave” welfare state should be entitled to dignity in old age. Instead their pensions are taxed and they are left to die of diseases contracted while in hospital, or of cold.
Some £3.5 billion ($6.2bn) is earmarked towards helping the elderly in winter, yet the money misses its target. About 50,000 of these payments go to pensioners living on the continent, many retired in Spain.
The so-called winter fuel payment does not even allow for the rise in council tax bills.
Rather than help the elderly, the welfare state often seeks to frustrate the care which others offer. Take the case of Jean and Derek Randall, found dead in their Northampton home this month. A neighbour tried to warn the council they were facing difficulties, but was told her concern was irrelevant as she was not a family member.
The horizontal ties which bind communities to each other are gradually supplanted with vertical ties binding the individual to the state. And while these ties bind, they offer little support.