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Setting: the ministry for health, social services and later life or HASSLL as it is known

Jim Hacker the minister for Hassll is slumped over his desk

Enter Sir Humphrey Appleby

“good morning minister, and how are we today?”

Jim Hacker Minister for Hassl

“It’s a disaster Humphrey, what on earth are we going to do?”

Sir Humphrey

“oh Minister last night’s departmental Christmas party wasn’t that bad surely?”

Jim Hacker

“I don’t mean the party Humphrey, I mean this” *he gestures to an Our Voices report* how can there be all these old people without children?”

Sir Humphrey

“one assumes they simply didn’t want them Minister”

Jim “this report says that a lot of them did want children and just didn’t have them for other reasons”

Humphrey “well it’s very sad Minister but I don't see how it’s our problem”

Jim “who looks after nearly all the old people in this country Humphrey? Its people’s children that’s who! they save us billions, why do you think we keep telling them they’re not doing enough?”

Humphrey “but they are doing a huge amount Minister”

Jim “they are, and we need them to do more otherwise we’ll have to find billions more to make up the gap. It says here that next year older people will need care than have family to provide it. Who’s going to look after them all? It’ll cost a fortune, why didn’t you tell me I didn’t know this Humphrey”

Sir Humphrey “well Minister first I would have to know that you didn’t know it”

Jim Hacker “well I know it now!”

Sir Humphrey “ah but do you Minister?”

Jim “do I what?”

Humphrey “do you know this?”

Jim “I’ve just told you I know it”

Humphrey “forgive me Minister but in Government just because one knows something, doesn’t mean one knows it”

Jim “what do you mean?”

Humphrey “well Minister a government will generally know many things, but once it admits to knowing something its half way to doing something, and therefore in many cases even though the government knows something its best that it doesn’t know it otherwise it might have to do something”

Jim “so we could just ignore these, what is it 20% of older people without children?”

Humphrey “exactly Minister! So long as you don’t know they exist, you can’t do anything about them”

Jim “but what if they start to make a fuss?”

Sir Humphrey “in my experience Minister its generally older people’s children making a fuss not them, and of course…..” *he pauses delicately*

Jim “these people don’t have any children and so won’t make a fuss?”

Humphrey “exactly Minister”

Jim “no Humphrey it won’t do! This is a serious problem, something must be done”

Humphrey “how about a commission Minister? They are usually terribly good at considering complex problems, often for so long that the issue they were set up to consider has either gone away or become less politically urgent in the meantime”

Jim “Haven’t we had commissions on this recently? Dilnot? Barker?”

Humphrey “we did minister but unfortunately they came up with some recommendations that would have been politically difficult and therefore the PM felt it best to consider them further, in the fullness of time”

Jim “do you mean never?”

Humphrey “I couldn’t possibly say Minister”

Jim “this is really difficult Humphrey, it says here there will be 2 million of them by 2030, 2 million!!

Sir Humphrey “if I may minister *he begins to flick through the report* ah, I note that it says the biggest problem they face is being invisible”

Jim “well yes they are, I mean I’d never thought about them”

Humphrey “but you are thinking of them now Minister and that is to be commended!”

Jim “yes it is isn’t it?”

Humphrey “indeed it is Minister!”

Jim “and I’ll continue to think”

Humphrey “of course you will Minister, no one will give it more thought than you!”

Jim “this is a complex issue to consider, mustn't be rushed, I’ll give it a lot of consideration in the fullness of time, possibly set up a commission”

Sir Humphrey “yes Minister”

Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas from AWOC

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