This is fancy. But not, I think, fanciful.
|Photograph from Disability Direct, Derbyshire|
Caz is in her fifties. Divorced, she lives with her teenage son in a rented flat. She has a minimum-wage job at the local school that just about keeps the pair of them fed and clothed.
Caz has two brothers, Graham and Michael, both happily married with young families of their own, in reasonable jobs that pay the mortgage.
Their mum died a few years ago. Their dad, now 85, still lives in the family home he bought when he first married 60-odd years ago. It’s nothing special, but the mortgage has long been paid off and, with the housing market boom, it’s probably worth between £250,000 and £300,000.
Dad had been managing ok on his own, but he suffered a stroke a couple of months ago. He seems to have recovered better than the family feared physically, but the children are worried about his mental state. He seems to be more forgetful.
It turns out that a form of dementia is quite a common side-effect of stroke. Dad insists on staying at home, but the council is sending people round to look after him. They call in two or three times a day to get him up and dressed, give him some lunch, and put him to bed. He doesn’t really want to go to bed at 7 o’clock, but what can you do? The children all have jobs and their own families to look after. Caz’s son Liam is doing GCSEs and can be quite stroppy. She’s got more than enough to cope with, but she still tries to go round to see her Dad every couple of days and she texts and calls daily. Graham and Mike both ring the old man every week and visit at least once a month to take him out for a drive.
It becomes clear that Dad’s condition is deteriorating, so the family have a conference. The boys obviously can’t give up their jobs, but the Prime Minister has introduced a new policy that gives people the right to take a year’s leave from work to care for a relative. They decide that if Caz gives up the flat and she and Liam move in with Dad, they might be able to manage on the carer’s allowance of £62.70 if she can find some part-time bar work. They might have to dip into dad’s savings to top up, but that’s fine. That’s what they’re for.
No one expects Dad to live long after the stroke. But he does. He becomes more frail and more forgetful. Caz gets increasingly frustrated and she’s soooo tired. Liam is still stroppy. He’s doing A levels and wants to go to uni. The prospect of fees and student loans and huge debt terrifies Caz, but she admires his ambition and work ethic.
Caz didn’t go back to work after her year of unpaid leave was up. She just couldn’t leave Dad and, anyway, things at the school had changed beyond recognition. Some teachers had lost their jobs and the cuts were biting.
Mike and Graham still come to take Dad out for a pub lunch or to the cricket, but they don’t call as regularly as they used to. They’re relieved that Caz is there to look after the old boy, but don’t realise how much work is involved. They think that because the carer still comes round, she is getting all the support she needs. To be honest, she’s not as much fun as she used to be. Snappier, somehow, so they tend to avoid seeing her as often as they did. There’s always an excuse, though they prefer to see these explanations for their absence as “reasons”.
The family knows that a bill is racking up for the care the council provides, but they don’t realise that there will be interest to pay as well. They are just glad that they haven’t got to move Dad out of his home and that they are able to defer the payments.
Dad dies shortly before Liam is due to graduate from uni. His cash savings have long been used up on living costs, but he has a few treasures: his long-service gold watch, the diamond engagement ring he bought Mum, a collection of first-day cover stamps. He leaves the ring to Caz, the stamps to Mike, the watch to Graham.
When the value of his estate is calculated for probate, the treasures – probably worth about £5,000 between them – are included. There aren’t really any other assets other than the house, which is valued at £300,000.
Social services need every penny they can get, so they are soon on the family’s case, seeking payment for years of care. The final account comes as a shock. But if you think about it, three visits a day for five years is bound to cost a lot.
Fortunately, Mrs May has promised that no one should be deprived of their last £100,000, so they’re let off some of the bill.
They sell the house. It doesn’t raise as much as they’d hoped, but that’s life. It wasn’t worth holding out for more as they’d have had to give the extra to the council anyway.
The estate agent’s bills, legal fees, house clearance people are all paid. The three children take their mementoes and then share out the proceeds of Dad’s estate. They come away with £30,000 each.
The boys’ careers are still on track. But Caz is now approaching 60 and has no home. Her inheritance might be enough for a deposit on a flat, but without a full-time job who would give her a mortgage? And where will she find a “proper” job? For now she’s still doing shifts at the pub and is back in a rented flat . Liam is threatening to come back and live with her while he tries to find a job.
So that’s fine then? After all she’s got £30,000 in the bank.
The man who lived next door to Dad died last summer. He had cancer, poor chap. But he was well looked-after to the end. The house has just been sold. It fetched £325,000. His son is buying a new Range Rover and his daughter is planning to build an extension to her house. The rest will make sure that the grandchildren don’t come out of uni with too much debt.
Thank heavens for Mrs May’s fair society.