Oscaruk has had a clear response to our question about care for the elderly.
You now have the opportunity to influence government policy on this issue, as ‘The Big Care Debate’ is being rolled out across the country. There is a website – www.careandsupport.direct.gov.uk - which gives details of the meetings which are being held for public consultation, and through which you can make your own views heard by the government.
There is also a leaflet with a questionnaire, which may be distributed through workplaces, or other organizations. If you want a copy of this, or more than one copy to distribute, go to www.orderline.dh.gov.uk and quote 297527/Join the big care debate – quick guide.
We get few enough opportunities to make a real influence upon government policy, and in such a massively important topic, it does seem worth the trouble to take an active part.
One little grumble; so many government questionnaires ask for our ethnic origin or group. I never fill this in on census forms, and it appears again on the questionnaire with this document. It is such a meaningless phrase, and is one of those attempts at political correctness which only go to make the underlying problem worse.
Since my recent discovery that one of my ancestors was a mounted archer during the Hundred Years War – on the English side – I guess English is my ethnic origin, even though one grandmother was Welsh. ‘Ethnic’ can relate to either a race or a nation, and I do wonder which the government wish me to use. Granny makes me a bit of a Celt, so to speak, and it is always possible that William Douce, mounted archer, was a French mercenary. Uncle Guillaume. That might mean he was Norman French, so he would actually be descended from Vikings.
Really, if they want to know what colour I am, I’m mostly pink with some browner bits during summer. I don’t know what information they are looking for with the question, and as someone who has worked on questionnaires since around 1968, if I can’t figure it out, nobody else will. Much better to forget about issues of race, and concentrate on delivering a robust system of care for the elderly.
One of the original reasons for setting up this site was that for lots of things in life you get an instruction book - becoming a university student, buying a coffee machine, and so on - but nothing is handed out when you reach 60, or any other age milestone. This site is designed to tell you what is available at various senior ages. I thought it worthwhile trying to sum up what is avalable at 60 - deep breath, here goes -
Bus Travel - You can get free bus travel within each country of the UK, but your English pass will not work in Scotland, and so on. If you live in London, your Freedom Pass will give you Tube, Rail and bus travel free (outside of morning rush hours) within London. If you live in England outside London, you still get free bus travel in London. Even the Thames Water services offer a discount. Local authorities in each area can provide the pass (and in most parts of London the Post Office will do this for you).
Rail Travel - a Senior Railcard can be bought for £24 from local stations which gives you 1/3rd off all rail tickets for a year. If you live in London, this combines with the Freedom Pass on some journeys to give very cheap travel.
Coach Travel - No national scheme as such, but many operators offer discounts - for example National Express offer up to 50% discounts on some services. No pass needed for this.
Winter Fuel Allowance - £250 per household for those 60-79, and for those 80 or over £400. This even applies if you live on the Costa Brava. You need to apply for this for the first time, unless you are already getting state benefits, when it should come through automatically. After the first year it will just turn up in your bank account. Check with www.thepensionservice.gov.uk.
Sight Tests - Sight tests are free for the over 60s. Just tell your optician and they should do the rest.
Prescriptions - Free for the over 60s.
Dental Checks - Free in Scotland and Wales if you are being treated under NHS. Not free in England.
Heating & Insulation - This can be a very difficult area to find out exactly what is available, and money seems to run out from time to time. Over 60s on benefits can get help towards various installations, and in Scotland there is a more generous assistance towards central heating, but then it is pretty cold. Some grant assistance is available in Wales to over 60s who are not receiving benefits. Check with the Warm Front Scheme www.warmfront.co.uk and follow links for schemes outside England.
There are lots of commercial offers for the over 60s - our site holds close to 4,000 offers in total, so if you are thinking of eating out, shopping, or just about any activity that costs you money, check if we have a discount for you.
fter all of this, I am thinking of sending my teeth and various other body parts to live in Wales or Scotland.
While the excitement over our GB team winners in the Beijing Olympics is understandable, we risk forgetting about the Games in which all medals have been won by the British entries. These are the English Olimpicks, which have been held since 1612 in the Cotswolds, with only some interference from the unpleasantness caused by Cromwell.
They were started by Robert Dover, in the tradition of the ancient games. The spectacle was probably less than we saw at Beijing, but there was a temporary wooden castle wheeled on each year, complete with cannons, so some attempt was made at showmanship - probably a bit more exciting than a London bus, in fact.
The games involved were rather violent, and no mention seems to have been made of a synchronised swimming event. Wrestling was a major sport, later branching out into the specialist version called shin-kicking, which - rather in the way our cyclists had highly evolved equipment - lead to the development of special spiked boots.
The wrestling seems to have been more full-blooded than any modern equivalent, as there is a record of one contestant dying after his entrails had been removed in the contest. i bet nobody called him lily-livered after that.
Another record is of a sword fight between Sir German Poole and Mr Hutchinson. Poole cut off three of Hutchinson’s fingers before the latter had even drawn his sword. Hutchinson’s response was to slice off Poole’s nose. Fair enough, except that he picked it up, popped it into his pocket, and ran off, so that the nose could not be sown back in place. This was regarded as less than sporting, and some nasty gossip spread about the behaviour.
King James approved of the whole activity, and gave a suit of his old clothes to be worn by Dover at the ceremonies.
Running was part of the games, but presumably timing sprinters could have proved challenging; the 100 yards being timed by burning a candle or - when fine - by sundial might have been less than accurate.
Somehow the whole thing fits in well with the idea of Boris running our Olympics, and the return of Whiff Whaff.
There is a splendid, eccentric book about this - The First Ever English Olimipick Games by Celia Haddon - which is well worth digging out if you can find it.
A major issue for many of us in the future - in some cases the very near future - is how to care for the increasing numbers of the elderly. It will become increasingly expensive for the state to take on this role, and there has to be some mix of state and private care. Even if you feel that you have organized things so that you will be fine, your taxes may still grow to pay for the care of other people.
The Open University is carrying out a consultation exercise on this topic at the moment, looking at the kind of services we expect, and how they should be paid for. There is an opportunity for all of us to have a say in this - go to www.open2.net/caresurvey and there is an online survey which should take about 20 minutes to fill in, and whose results will be fed to the government as part of their consultation process. Definitely worth doing.