The Government has always proclaimed itself a low-tax Government, but it has introduced a raft of stealth charges and new taxes in the past few years. Last week in the budget, the health levy was increased by 25%, there was an increase in the cost of private beds in public hospitals and the Government voted through a measure requiring 5% of the notional value of a person's home to be assessed for the purposes of a claim for subvention.
Yesterday, we saw the introduction of a new death tax on the elderly. It appears the Government intends to wash its hands entirely of the future care of the elderly, those who built up this country, worked in far more difficult times than now and paid their taxes and PRSI, but now find they will be subject to a death tax after they have gone, in some cases requiring the sale of the family home. The Government's proposal is built on three pillars, namely, an inspectorate regime for nursing homes, community services and this funding proposal. The Government seems completely unaware of what is happening in respect of the provision of community services. It is some years since those in psychiatric institutions were abandoned in communities with no facilities to support them, but I see something similar happening now.
Is the Taoiseach aware that, in respect of the provision of community services for elderly people, we do not have sufficient general practitioners, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists or home helps? To expect those services to be in place by 1 January 2008 is complete and utter fantasy. If the Taoiseach has been unable to prevent the serious abuse of some elderly in some licensed nursing homes, where a monitoring regime is supposed to exist, how does he expect that a community service to look after those elderly who are semi-highly dependent can be put in place by that date? How can he justify that as one of the fundamental pillars of this new programme, which also includes a death tax which was introduced yesterday?