On 16 November, the First Secretary Damian Green announced that the government will publish a Green Paper on care and support for older people by summer 2018. Independent Age welcomed the timetable and consultative process, and expressed our long-held hope that the government will not dodge the hard choices that need to be made if we are to see a long-term solution for social care.
However, in welcoming the announcement of the Green Paper, Independent Age also reminded the government that social care is in crisis now and we simply cannot wait for all of its ills to be addressed in the Green Paper and beyond.
Front of mind for us is the ever-increasing funding gap for social care, currently at £1.3 billion and predicted to rise to £2.7 billion by 2020/21.
We hoped, therefore, that the Chancellor Philip Hammond would seize the opportunity of the Autumn Budget statement to recognise the urgency of filling the funding gap and pump much needed money into social care.
And so on 22 November we listened intently, and ultimately in vain, for any announcement from the Chancellor on social care. We heard the Chancellor talk about making Britain “fit for the future” but were left wondering how this can happen if we don’t plan for the needs of our ageing population?
As long as the funding gap is not tackled, the present, and future, looks bleak for many older people who will continue to bear the brunt of under-investment in social care:
- 1.2 million older people in England live with at least one unmet care need (up from 800,000 in 2010)
- 380,000 older people provide more than 50 hours-a-week of care themselves, without any support from their local authority
- Many experience poor quality care as 1 in 3 nursing homes are not meeting CQC standards
- Research published by Independent Age this week shows that some councils are struggling to meet their responsibilities under the Care Act
Our message to the Chancellor and the government is clear – action is needed now, not next summer, to increase funding for social care. Money today will ensure that social care does not sink into further crisis while a long-term solution is being discussed.
If Britain is to be fit for the future, Government needs to look at the needs of an ageing population as a whole, not simply through the lens of social care. This includes many of the areas the Chancellor talked about this week. Housing stock needs to be both accessible and facilitate downsizing for those older people who wish to do so. Our towns, cities and transport system must be age-friendly. Access to digital services must be open to all older people. Services that reduce the impact of loneliness and social isolation must be supported. All of this needs action today.