You are currently browsing the daily archive for February 15, 2012.

My last two posts — here and here — have been about the moves, already piloted by Redbridge Council (east of London), to manage the elderly’s houses whilst they decamp to cramped quarters and find a job in their dotage.  The Government first mooted this idea last October.

Many of us have been outraged that someone even came up with such a heinous idea. That person is David Halpern, the director of the No.10 Behavioural Insight Team, known as the “nudge unit”.

Halpern is also part of NESTA (‘making innovation flourish’) and the Institute for Government (‘Prospect Magazine Think Tank of the Year 2010’).

Halpern has served as Deputy Director of the Institute for Government where he

was responsible for the original blueprint for the Institute, and now serves as a Senior Fellow.

He was seconded to No. 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office in October 2010, tasked with the directorship of

the Behavioural Insight Team, and support on the Big Society and wellbeing agendas.

Halpern got his start as a Government adviser when Tony Blair was Prime Minister:

David previously worked as Chief Analyst in the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit (2001-2007). He led numerous reviews, including the UK Government’s Strategic Audits and recent Policy Reviews; set up the Social Exclusion Task Force and drafted its Action Plan; and authored many of the Strategy Unit’s most influential papers, such as on Life Satisfaction and on Personal Responsibility and Behaviour Change.

He has an academic background, primarily in England but also in the United States:

Before entering government, he held tenure at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Cambridge University, where he still remains an Affiliated Lecturer. He has also held posts at Nuffield College, Oxford; the Policy Studies Institute, London; and as a Visiting Professor at the Centre for European Studies, Harvard.  He has published widely including books on Hidden Wealth of Nations (2009); Social Capital (2005); Options for Britain: a strategic policy review (1996) and Options for a New Britain (2009), and Mental Health and the Built Environment (1995). 

Note the book titles Options for Britain: a strategic policy review, Options for a New Britain and Mental Health and the Built Environment.

It would be most interesting to browse through them, particularly the last one.

Let us hope that there is no relationship between Dr Halpern and — the next two links having been posted at random by a commenter in a Telegraph threadthe Dr Halpern of this concern.

What about the Institute of Government? Lord Sainsbury of Turville — David Sainsbury — is their Chairman of the Board. The Rt Hon the Lord Heseltine — Michael Heseltine — also serves on the Board, along with mostly British high-flyers from various sectors. The ‘vision and values’ as well as the ‘objectives and strategy’ are similar to those of most think tanks and management consulting groups. Essentially: keep moving, nothing to see.

As for NESTA, its acronym stands for

NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts – an independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative.

Those of us who are on the lookout for fake charities will be relieved to know that their

endowment status means we operate at no cost to the UK taxpayer.

As with the Institute for Government, NESTA’s website content all seem rather standard and harmless, meant to be passed over by the man in the street. Again, keep moving, nothing to see here.

So, it seems that the public face of these organisations appears anodyne, if not boring. It’s what goes on inside these organisations and ends up being produced for the Government as suggested policy which becomes a worry.

Back to the houses of the elderly, their cherished private property. If you would like more questions to ponder as to the morality and ethics of this situation, you will find the comments accompanying the Telegraph article of January 16, 2012, featuring Tory Housing Minister Grant Shapps helpful.

Someone points out that there is no problem for the Government to solve, because, surely, the property of the elderly will pass to their children. Another commenter replies that the whole idea is no doubt to incrementally put private property into the hands of the Government — via local councils — to redistribute as they see fit.

I had read last year when Occupy was more active that policy wonks — not necessarily the aforementioned — want to move people away from the notion that they own their property. They want people to enter into a communitarian spirit by which everyone shares everything in the name of a ‘fair and just society’.

Therefore: ‘You want my house?  Sure, you can have it.  Hang on, I’ll just get my coat and a small suitcase. The rest — books, paintings, kitchenware, china, personal mementoes — hey, they’re all yours. And, by the way, here are the keys to the car. It’s in the garage. All this — my life’s investment? It means nothing to me. You’re perfectly deserving.’

So, when do you think David Cameron will ask his widowed mother to vacate her properties? What about his in-laws? Does Dr Halpern have any aged relatives he can move out of their house? What about Mr Shapps?

No? I didn’t think so. This only applies to the little people, from the middle classes on down.

For those with elderly parents, here are a few questions to consider, courtesy of the aforementioned Telegraph thread:

– What if my aged parent decides they want to move back into their house?

– What happens to the house should my parents die?

– Is possession 9/10ths of the law in the case of renters?

– Would the council’s property management company (i.e. subcontractor) repair any damage and, if so, how well?

– How dramatically would the resale price be affected if the house were not left as pristine as it was when given to the council to manage (via a third party)?

It is strange that this is happening under a Tory-led Government, so reliant upon votes from the elderly. Twenty years ago they were called the ‘blue rinse brigade’ and were ardent supporters, if not members, of their local Conservative Association. Now, it seems that all those decades of loyalty have not paid off. In fact, the Tories would like to forget this demographic, without whom David Cameron would not be Prime Minister today.

Unfortunately, I have no solution to offer other than to encourage each other to spread awareness of this gruesome plan and publicise your objections either online or on the letters page of your favourite national newspaper.

This is a terrible way to treat our elderly and an indelible stain on the Conservative Party.

End of series

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