Adrian Chiles in Guardian:
“I was sitting on a tram in Birmingham when a guy tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I was me. “I just had to ask,” he said, “or I’d never have forgiven myself. I would always have wondered.” I felt most unworthy of this level of interest, and told him so.
As we walked down Corporation Street together I asked him what he did for a living. It turned out he was on his way home from work at a local authority, where it was his job to decide whether or not people had the means to pay for their residential care.
As I understand it, if you’ve got nothing, then the council pays. If you’ve got savings, then you pay. Which is obviously fair enough on one hand, but not so fair on the other if you, unlike your neighbour, have saved diligently all your life.
Why should they get the benefit? Where’s the incentive to save at a time when everyone is being told to save more? I shared these incredibly wise thoughts with my new friend. And do you know, his expression suggested that all the above might have been suggested to him before.
“I know,” he said. “Privately, I know. I get all that. But what can I do? It’s my job.”
“It must be so stressful,” I replied.
“It is very stressful,” he agreed.
I rub shoulders and share studios all the time with politicians whose job it is to make difficult decisions as to who gets what. Must be tough, but not half as tough as being one of the many public sector workers who have to make the big calls on the ground, while breathing the same air as those they sit in judgment on.
We shook hands and I asked him what he was up to that evening. “Just telly, I suppose,” he said with a shrug. “It’s a school night.”