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Thousands with sight loss entirely cut off from social care

Thousands of blind and partially sighted elderly people have been entirely cut off from social care support, an investigation has found.

There was a 36.5% drop in services to older people with visual impairment between 2009 and 2013, according to the analysis by the Age UK charity and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). More than 12,000 over-65s with at least partial sight problems are missing out on care that would help them perform basic daily tasks. Without the support, they have been left to their own devices to get out of bed, cook, clean, get dressed and eat meals.

The two organisations argued that this number is likely to be even higher for older people with sight loss, because although they have care needs, they do not receive formal help and are therefore not recorded in official data.

Their research suggested half of all registered partially sighted or blind elderly people live alone, increasing the risk of leaving essential care needs unmet.

Visually impaired older people are also at greater risk of having multiple health conditions, to suffer injuries, to be on low incomes or to live in poor quality housing, exacerbating even further the impact of “disproportionate” funding cuts. A significant slice of the 2.3 million older people that have a fall each year – 17% of which require hospital admission – suffer from sight loss.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said: “That so many blind or partially sighted older people who need social care aren’t getting is profoundly shocking. I wish I could say that the Spending Review outcome means the position is set to improve next year, but unfortunately too little money will be coming into social care, too late.

“Even at this late stage we hope the government will think again.”

Fazilet Hadi, director of engagement at RNIB, added that this essential support must be provided “no matter how tight government budgets are”.

But a government spokesman argued that the Spending Review did much in the way of improving this scenario, with local authorities accessing “up to £3.5bn extra a year by the end of the Parliament through the social care precept and additional investment”.

“We also announced £400m to deliver specialist homes for the elderly and disabled and we continue to spend billions on disability services,” he added. “Along with this money we have introduced national minimum eligibility criteria and councils must meet the needs of adults whose needs reach this threshold.”

He also claimed that due to a growing and ageing population, more older and vulnerable people will need care and home support, including those who are visually impaired.

Despite the extra money poured into councils’ cash pot, the LGA has recently argued in response to the provision local government finance settlement that there will be no immediate cash available in the Better Care Fund in 2016-17, which already accounts for £1.5bn alone.

Their response explained: “This, together, with the incremental nature of the council tax precept policy, means a further two years of significant pressures on a system that is already under strain.

“The government has been clear in its intention to address social care pressures yet in 2016-17 the spending power of councils with social care responsibilities falls by 3.2% at a time when they are facing significant pressures in adult social care, including rising need and demand and the cost of the national living wage.”


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