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17.11.16

More calls for Autumn Statement social care priority as unmet needs hit new high

The number of older people who don’t receive sufficient social care has risen to a new high of 1.2 million, Age UK has revealed in a new report, with councils and NHS workers urging the government to take action as a result.

The analysis reveals that since 2010, 383,900 more people over the age of 65 are now living with a level of unmet need in helping them to carry out everyday tasks like getting up, washing, eating or getting dressed – a 48% rise since 2010, affecting almost one in eight of the elderly population.

Among these 1.2 million, Age UK found that nearly 700,000 do not receive any help at all from paid carers, family or friends, and a further 487,400 receive some help but not enough. Almost a quarter of them (291,400) have difficulty with three or more essential tasks.

Caroline Abrahams, the organisation’s charity director, said: “It is shameful that more than one in every eight older people in this country are now living with some level of unmet need for care, and we are extremely worried about the quarter of a million older people with multiple unmet care needs, struggling alone: how many of them are constantly in and out of hospital because they are unable to cope at home?

“The sad irony is that it would be far more cost effective, as well as infinitely more humane, to give these older people the care and support they need. All this adds up to a compelling case for giving social care the priority it deserves in the government’s forthcoming Autumn Statement.”

Analysis by the LGA has found that social care for the elderly and disabled currently faces a funding gap of at least £2.6bn. This has made older people increasingly unable to obtain the help they need and is also having a knock-on effect on NHS demand.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, expressed her concerns that unless social care is sufficiently funded, the risk of care being unsafe or of insufficient quality will grow.

“There is now a real need to raise national awareness of what social care is, why it matters and why it has to become more of a priority for the public and the government,” Cllr Seccombe said. “These figures illustrate the scale of the pressure facing adult social care services which are so critical to the wellbeing and independence of people with a complex range of needs, their carers and families.

“The government must use the Autumn Statement to provide councils with the funding to ensure we have a fair care system which ensures the care our loved ones receive goes beyond just helping them to get washed, dressed and fed, but to supporting them to live dignified, independent lives, as well as alleviating the pressure on the NHS.”

In 2015, the then chancellor George Osborne allowed local authorities to increase council tax by an extra 2% per year for additional social care spending. However, this benefitted councils in richer areas more than it did their deprived counterparts.

A report published by the public sector union Unison, ‘Investing in Social Care, has recently suggested that the government could ease the crisis by handing English councils the £2.4bn windfall it expects to receive from business rates each year for the next three financial years.

This would allow local authorities to spend the money on home care, day care places and meals-on-wheels services, and also benefit the taxpayer by removing the need for the 2% council tax precept.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The social care system is in dire straits. There’s simply not enough money to fund the care that’s needed. The losers are the thousands of dedicated homecare workers, who work long hours, and whose already low wages are dragged below the legal minimum because of the non-payment of travel time.

“Investing £2.4bn in social care would be money extremely well spent. Not only would it mean better care for the elderly, it would ease the pressure on homecare staff, and free up beds in the NHS.”

Under the Care Act 2014, local authorities must help local residents in understanding the financial implications of having care needs and in making plans for meeting them, such as deferred payment agreements.

In response to today’s Age UK figures, the Department of Health (DH) argued that it is continuing to support local authorities with their new Care Act duties and will make available more social care funds for local government via the Better Care Fund from April 2017.  

"We are determined to make sure that older people throughout the country can get affordable and dignified care,” a DH spokesperson commented. “That's why we have introduced reforms to ensure no-one should have to sell their home to pay for care in their lifetime.

“We are significantly increasing the amount of money local authorities have access to for social care, by up to £3.5 billion by 2020. Our Care Act gave new rights to carers and we will publish further details on a new Carers Strategy in the coming months.”

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