Charity warns that £500m funding shortfall has left elderly struggling

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The Independent Online

Thousands of elderly people are struggling to cope with everyday tasks at home because a £500m funding shortfall has left them without the care they need, the charity Age UK warns.

Spending on older people's social care in England this year has fallen short of even maintaining the "inadequate" levels of provision in place when the Coalition came to power, a report by the charity argues.

To maintain the same levels of service as in 2010, the report's projections show that the Government needs to spend £7.8bn this year. In fact, councils have only budgeted £7.3bn in the face of cuts in central government funding.

Age UK's analysis, called Care in Crisis 2012, shows that the combined impact of growing demand for services and a £341m reduction in older people's social care budgets this financial year – equivalent to a 4.5 per cent cut – has created the £500m shortfall.

Since 2004, the number of people aged over 85 has risen by more than 250,000. The increasing demand, combined with a fall in real-term spending, has created a funding crisis.

Age UK projects that, by next year (2012-13), the Government will need to spend £1bn more than this year to stop the situation deteriorating further. Its report shows that of the two million older people who need care, almost 800,000, nearly 40 per cent, do not receive any formal support. The total hours of care support purchased by local authorities for older people decreased from two million to 1.85 million in 2009-10. Since 2009-10, local authorities have faced funding cuts of 28 per cent over four years.

In 2005, around half of councils provided support to people assessed as having "moderate" care needs, but by 2011 the figure had fallen to 18 per cent. Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, said: "Our new figures show a funding gap clearly exists, that it currently stands at £500m, and that it is growing bigger all the time. We need urgent government action now; otherwise the gap will simply get worse.

"Behind these figures are real people struggling to cope without the support they need, compromising their dignity and safety on a daily basis... it is the support that helps older people get out of bed, have a wash, live a life that is more than just an existence."