We received positive news here at Independent Age this week and are pleased to report that it was a good week for Minister for Care and Support, Norman Lamb. Independent Age has been campaigning to bring an end to the injustice that means family members of older people sometimes have to pay what is called a ‘top-up’ to their older relative’s care home, for care which should be free. We have called this a ‘Secret subsidy’ because until now, the problem has been hidden from public view and many politicians have not heard of it.

Top-ups are in place to allow families to choose a better standard of care for their loved ones than the council will provide, but these top-ups need to be made out of choice, and councils have a duty to ensure that families are both willing and able to pay them. At present, many of the 56,000 people who are paying top-ups have not made any kind of choice at all and instead, feel pressured to make a payment, which can sometimes equate to several hundred pounds a week. So, we were delighted to hear this week that Norman Lamb has listened to and acted on one of our main campaign demands, and has promised he will be writing to councils to remind them of their important obligations towards older people living in residential care. We hope our campaigning will lead him to draw up tighter rules for the future social care system so we no longer see families of the poorest pensioners burdened with payments they can’t afford. (Find out more about our campaign here

Moving away from home turf, it’s not such a good week for China’s dancing retirees who have had locals up in arms thanks to being an ‘ear-splitting nuisance’. The Guardian reported this week that China’s amateur dance troupes (whose members are almost always retired or middle-aged) have colonised its parks, housing compounds and quasi-public spaces outside shopping malls. But potential audiences have become increasingly upset by the loud music and ‘tinny amplifiers’. It’s become so bad that complaints have metamorphosed into action, including direct attacks on the dancers. This has ranged from flinging water balloons to faeces at the performers and at the end of last year, a man from Beijing, stood trial for illegal possession of firearms after firing a double-barrelled shotgun into the air ‘to express his rage at dancers’.

Despite the city’s dancing squares offering a platform for older people to make friends and escape their loneliness, it appears their activities have clashed with another development: people’s growing sense of their rights and personal space.       

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