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By Debbie le Quesne

Cheer up the elderly and we’ll save a fortune: I don’t think so

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Cheer up elderly and ease pressure on NHS, so says the headline in the Telegraph online.

Inspired by Norman Lamb, the minister for care and support, it’s certainly an eye-catcher – well done that sub-editor.

The Lib Dem MP maintains that taking elderly neighbours to church or a football match will reduce pressure on the NHS by giving pensioners a “reason to live” and stopping their “dependency” on care services.

Is that right?

The article says that Mr Lamb wants people to offer their elderly neighbours “companionship” because those who are ageing are living “miserable lives”.

He adds, according to the Telegraph, that such action could be enough to stop them relying on professional carers.

Earlier this year I blogged a piece about Mr Lamb suggesting that Neighbourhood Watch groups could be responsible for providing care to pensioners. I was not impressed with his proposal then and neither am I heartened by his latest idea.

Where does he get the idea that the elderly, per se, are miserable and need reasons to live? This is hardly an evidenced-based generalism, Mr Lamb.

Yes, some are lonely, some are miserable – but so are a lot of young and middle-aged people.

Why do I find Mr Lamb’s comments so insulting? Am I now old?

According to the Telegraph he told a fringe meeting at the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow: “If you are on your own and you never see anyone from day to day and week to week other than a formal care worker perhaps only for a 15-minute visit in the morning and afternoon, your life is pretty miserable.

“If you start to get a visit from someone who says, ‘Let’s go out, let’s take you to church, let’s take you to [a football match]’ you give people their lives back. You give them a reason to live again.”

His comments are certainly partially true, I guess a little like politics. Did I read he’s a lawyer and wouldn’t his courtroom experience serve him well for the ‘whole truth’?

Ultimately the Telegraph article reveals the driving force behind Mr Lamb’s comments and I quote directly from the piece . . . “Mr Lamb said local authority finances are under huge pressure because of the growing elderly population. “As people get their lives back they are less dependent on statutory services to deliver support to them. And so the cost to the local authority starts to reduce.”

Is this the best he can offer in creative management of grossly inadequate social care budgets?

Come on, our elderly really deserve much better than this. Not least, they deserve properly funded care from paid professionals.

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