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Social care needs for many elderly unmet – Age UK

Nearly a third of older people between 65 and 89 now have unmet social care needs, new research from Age UK has revealed.

The research claims that nearly 900,000 (31.1%) older people who have difficulty in carrying out some essential activities of daily life, such as getting out of bed, washing, using the toilet or eating, do not receive any help formally from care workers or informally from family, friends or neighbours and are left to struggle alone.

Ague UK found that between 2005-06 and 2012-13 the number of people aged 65 and over in receipt of social care services has dropped by more than a quarter (from 1,231,000 to 896,000, a drop of 27.2%) – even though this age group has grown by more than one million over the same period.

In addition, despite rising demand from growing numbers of people in need of support, the amount spent on social care services for older people has fallen nationally by £1.2bn.

The charity said that access to publicly-funded social care is more restricted than ever and in most local authority areas it is only currently available for those whose needs are assessed as being ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ – leaving anyone who is assessed as ‘moderate’ without any help. Yet ‘moderate’ includes someone who has problems carrying out one of the essential everyday tasks aforementioned.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “It beggars belief that one in three older people who need some basic help with daily living are now having to do without it.

“And it is important to remember that the figures we analysed for this research only go up to age 89. It makes you wonder how many more thousands of people in their nineties are being left to struggle alone.”

The new Care Act 2014 means local authorities will also have to follow new rules determining who is eligible for care, which the government is currently running a public consultation on.

“The Care Act is fundamentally good legislation but underfunding means increasing numbers of older people are being shut out of the care system,” added Abrahams. “But the government’s draft guidance on eligibility for care suggests that from now on, the inability to do just one of these essential things like washing or dressing will not be enough to qualify you for support. It is not even certain that people with dementia who need help to continue to live at home with dignity will be entitled to it.”

But a Department of Health spokesman said that the government has given an extra £1.1bn to councils to help protect social care services this year.

“Councils are ultimately responsible for deciding how to spend their budgets but we agree that we all need to work differently to respond to the challenge of our growing ageing population,” he said. “The Care Act and the Better Care Fund will focus resources on helping people to live independently, which can save money and prevent people from needing more support.”

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