Commenting on the Chancellor's 2020 Spending Review Statement, Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said:
People in later life have had a particularly difficult time in 2020 with more than 2 million people being asked to shield, and many more anxious to leave their homes due to fear of catching the virus. For those Independent Age supports, the announcements made by the Chancellor in his 2020 Spending Review are a mixed bag.
We welcome the recognition of the need to support and improve access to mental health resources and services indicated by the Chancellor.
We’ve been speaking with older people since the pandemic began, and they’ve shared with us their increasing levels of anxiety and low mood. They’ve told us about dealing with unexpected bereavements and being unable to grieve in the normal ways, anxieties around safely accessing food and the extra strain on unpaid carers. They’ve also brought up the mental effects of worsening physical health and feeling cut off for long periods from those they care about.
Increased support is clearly needed for this age group, yet we know before the pandemic only 6% of adult talking therapy referrals in England were for people aged 65 and over. It is essential that people of all ages are offered the support they need to treat mental health problems, and we hope that the funding announced in the spending review will benefit the people in later life who need it.
Unfortunately, as with so many previous funding statements and announcements, clarity over the future funding and reform of the social care system is lacking. Stating a vague longer-term intention will not provide comfort to the many people we speak to who are in desperate need of support now. It also doesn’t give clarity to enable local authorities and providers to plan for the future.
We acknowledge that this is a Spending Review and not a Budget, but we believe the Chancellor has missed an opportunity to provide a bold proposal of reform - promised in the Conservative Manifesto - which could, and should, have given some reassurance to the many people who currently rely on social care.