Would you rather have £10 given to you today or a week’s time? Most would say today because we generally value things we currently have more than things we may get in the future. We want it now.
Sometimes the value can change quite dramatically if it’s a Scottish £10 note with English shopkeepers often refusing to take it, thinking it is worth nothing. And yet, if you offered that £10 to a homeless person, they would value it much more than even I (a thrifty Scot) would value that £10.
This is most visible when we receive letters from carers we’ve supported who have told us what it has enabled them to do. Small amounts of money can have a big impact on their lives with words and phrases like “heartfelt thanks”, “simply wonderful” and “no longer at my wits end” being used.
I look at the amounts involved and know that receiving such support would make much less of a difference to me. It’s a horrible process having to decide which carers you can support and which you cannot but unfortunately we, like everybody else, have limited funds. You have to judge where the money will have the greatest value.
The debate has started about cutting taxes to put more money into people’s pockets to increase spending to hopefully grow the economy. But the value of cutting taxes or a growing economy is dependent on who benefits from it and what does it enable them to do.
The balance has to be found between enabling people to build wealth to invest and spend, and enabling people to have a basic standard of living. My grandfather (a Conservative) used to describe a man he knew who would begrudge an extra penny on income tax. “A penny?! It’s only a penny. What difference would it make to you?” he would ask. The reply would be “It’s my penny, and I want to keep it”.
We must realise that a penny is not important in itself, but what it enables a person to do is. For carers, it can mean having a washing machine that works (desperately needed if caring for somebody incontinent), a ramp into the house, a first break in years or seeing a counsellor because the person you care for is dying. That seems pretty important to me.