This was another bad week for social care as a new report from Age UK, Care in crisis, revealed that around 168,000 older people have stopped receiving help with essential tasks such as eating, washing and getting dressed as a result of deep and continuing cuts. The deterioration in social care has come despite the fact that the number of pensioners rose by more than a million between 2005-06 and 2012-13 and the number of over-85s has risen by 30% in the same time.
£770m has been cut out of spending on social care over three years. And many councils have coped with this by paring back their provision of social care and tightening eligibility criteria. In reality, the cuts have translated into longer waits for care home places and home adaptations and less home care, too often of a poorer quality, with 15-minute visits, which are barely enough to meet even someone’s most basic needs. Sadly, many have been squeezed out of the system altogether – according to the report, the needs of nearly a million people are not being met.
The report also reveals there has been a decrease in community and preventive services but a fairly sharp increase (21%) in users of residential care. Our worry is that for many of these adults, there has also been an increase in the practice that sees their family members being required to top-up care home fees for residential care which should be free.
As the ageing population grows, this will only get worse. If older people do not receive the care they need and as a consequence end up in A&E units and hospital wards, it means we have simply shifted people around the system at great financial cost, creating distress and disruption for older people in the process.
Independent Age will do all it can to press the government to make sure it funds social care properly and realistically. Given the scale of the problem, we feel this is, overall, one very bad week.