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Councils lack resources to cope with ageing population – IPPR North

Local authorities are worried they will lack resources to address the challenges that arise from an ageing population, according to IPPR North. 

Its latest research paper, ‘Silver cities: Realising the potential of our growing older population’, promotes a positive, long-term and integrated response to ageing in cities, focusing on economic growth, employment and inclusion for people of all ages. 

But political leadership on ageing issues is lacking, which cuts across departments and funding streams with “unclear ministerial responsibilities”. 

Barnet council’s now-famous ‘graph of doom’ forecasted that within 20 years, on current trends, adult social care and children’s services would suck up its entire budget – meaning there would be no money for libraries, parks, leisure centres or bin collection. 

“Other councils have suggested that they will arrive at this scenario within an even shorter timeframe,” the report says. “This issue of limited resources also can prevent those areas that are ageing the fastest from maximising the upsides of an older population – for instance, through helping employers adapt to an older workforce and ensuring that local residents take steps towards healthier lifestyles.” 

Some councils, however, have recognised that with the demographic shift towards an ageing society things will have to be “done differently”. But there is a “lack of urgency” at a national level. 

Report authors Ed Cox, Graeme Henderson and Richard Baker wrote: “National governments have tended to homogenise and problematise ageing, focusing on worries about rising health, pension and welfare costs and a declining labour force on the basis of technical ‘dependency ratio’ calculations. 

“While it is right that there should be a national framework to better address the costs of ageing, some of the most progressive approaches to demographic ageing can be found at the sub-national level. 

“For this reason, it is our principal recommendation that every city in England that doesn’t have one should consider developing a strategy for demographic change, with a strong emphasis on the potential of the silver economy and links to wider strategies for economic growth and public service reform.” 

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