Elderly couple's care home despair

PENSIONER Gwen Brett served her country with the Women's Land Army in the Second World War, while husband Arthur was an agricultural worker for more than half a century.

By Danielle Nuttall

PENSIONER Gwen Brett served her country with the Women's Land Army in the Second World War, while husband Arthur was an agricultural worker for more than half a century.

They have always "paid their way" and not claimed benefits, while saving up money for their twilight years.

But now the Ipswich couple fear their modest savings may have to be plundered – by up to £800 a week – to pay for the care of 86-year-old Gwen, who suffered a crippling stroke a year ago.

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They say it is a situation faced by many other elderly people in similar positions – and has left Mr Brett believing they are being punished for being careful with their money, while others receive care free of charge.

The 77-year-old said: "We have been thrifty. We saved for our old age so we didn't have to hang on to the social and where does it get you? Nowhere.

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"It's one big worry. If this system carries on you must not have anything in the bank when you're my age and you will get treated just as well."

Mrs Brett suffered a severe stroke at her Ipswich home a year ago and received round-the-clock treatment at the town's hospital for several months.

She has recently been transferred to Monmouth Court nursing home in the town but Mr Brett, of Tuddenham Road, has been told her place there is only temporary until a permanent one is found.

And until a means test is carried out on Mr Brett's savings, it is not known how much help he will receive with the cost.

But he fears because they do have modest savings, he will receive little help – if any.

"I have a nice bit of savings but it seems as though with what they take, I won't have anything left for me and I am younger than my wife."

He would like Mrs Brett to be placed at an Ipswich nursing home near their home where there are both NHS and private beds. However, it is unclear whether there are NHS funded beds currently available and whether Mrs Brett would be eligible for one, and he claims he could have to pay up to £800-a-week for her to be cared for there privately.

Last night, he hit out at the situation, saying he was "disgusted" he would have to pay so much money.

"I said £300-£400 a month I would be willing to pay that but £800 a week is far too much."

He is frightened if she is moved to another home it will be in a different town.

Retired farm worker Mr Brett said his wife could no longer speak, is disabled down her right side, and has to be fed through a tube in her stomach.

"It's upsetting. We are living in Ipswich and I do not see why I should not take one of those places if I can get one," he said.

"I have never been on the social or nothing and I am disgusted. I have been honest all my life. We have paid our way all our lives.

"I do not want her to go outside of Ipswich. If I lose my driving licence I won't be able to go and visit.

"I would rather have her back in my bungalow and look after her myself."

During the Second World War, Mrs Brett was in the Land Army for four-and-a-half years. As a woman in her early 20s, she was based on a farm near Halstead, Essex, and undertook all sorts of manual jobs.

"She did four-and-a-half years and she was a wonderful lady, they thought the world of her. Then she came back to Ipswich and was supervisor of Marks & Spencer. This is what has got up my nose," said Mr Brett.

"If we had scrounged from the country, but we have never done that. We are all in the same country, why aren't we under the same roof?

"We don't know what's going to happen, it's a difficult situation."

Ipswich Primary Care Trust spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said: "We are doing all we can to care for Mrs Brett and we will be meeting personally with Mr and Mrs Brett to discuss all the issues."

Teresa Mackay, branch secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, said: "Obviously, as a union we feel really angry and cross Arthur and Gwen have been put into this situation. He and Gwen have given more than enough to society and the fact that he should be expected to pay £800 per week for his wife is absolutely appalling."

Although unhappy with the situation Mr Brett, who has been married to his wife for 53 years, praised her current nursing care.

He said: "I am quite happy where she is. They look after her well. The girls are good to her."

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