This impossible question (it may even make you sympathise with our party leaders) has seen the main parties offering additional NHS spending and more generous pensions as key policies to help win the so-called ‘grey vote’.
But in many respects, older people’s issues are everyone’s issues. Older people - like others – care about a whole range of policies.
With this in mind, and with just over two weeks to go until polling day, we wanted to consider how the main parties have tried to frame their policies for older people. We have reviewed their manifestos. We have explored what they agree on, where their policies for older people differ, and the questions that still need answering during the rest of the election campaign.
One positive aspect of the campaign so far is that politicians haven’t just talked about older people’s concerns through the prism of health and social care. All three of the main parties’ manifestos recognise older people aren’t just a bundle of health needs, but have a number of other concerns, not least how to boost income in retirement, and provide more support for their family members.
You could be mistaken for thinking that the parties have achieved that rarest of things in UK politics – consensus. They have committed to maintaining the so called ‘triple lock’ on the state pension, meaning that it keeps pace with inflation, earnings or 2.5%, whichever is the highest. Another notable area the main parties have achieved common ground is on funding for adult care. They have all pledged to cap the costs of care for people in England.
The parties do still disagree on a number of key issues affecting older people. The Conservatives have committed to preserving all pensioner benefits in their current form. Labour, however, have announced plans to restrict the Winter Fuel Payment (and in the case of the Liberal Democrats, both the Winter Fuel Payment and TV licences) for higher rate tax payers. There are a number of questions parties still need to answer about exactly how much money changing entitlement to pensioner benefits would save.
Even where the parties appear to agree – so for example on the need to integrate health and care services – they have adopted quite different approaches, with the Liberal Democrats reluctant to mandate one approach, preferring instead to set a target date of 2018 for the full pooling of local health and care budgets.
Despite announcements by the Green Party and UKIP to increase care funding, the three biggest parties have offered very little detail on the precise levels of funding required to improve adult care. The LGA and Directors of Social Services estimate care services will require an extra £4.3 billion by 2020 just to maintain current levels of care. Silence on the funding question not only lets down the hundreds of thousands of older people rationed out of care services, but all of us who may one day require care and support.
That is why Independent Age will continue to push all politicians on this issue beyond 7 May. With all the parties now agreed the NHS needs billions more to secure its long-term future, we hope the next fortnight will shed some light on what the parties plan to do to plug funding shortfalls in our chronically under-funded system of adult care.