Elderly care on 'the brink of disaster' as funding cuts take toll

Families under ‘intolerable strain’ as burden of care becomes theirs alone

The care of Britain’s elderly is nearing “the brink of disaster”, as funding cuts take their toll on some of the country’s most vulnerable people, a leading charity has warned.

Revealing what it called the “catastrophic” impact of cuts, combined with an ever-growing elderly population, Age UK said that hundreds of thousands of older people are not getting the help they need to live their daily lives, while families who care for loved ones are being put under “intolerable strain”.

Despite rising demand, the amount spent on social care services for older people has dropped by £1.2bn (15.4 per cent) since 2010, the charity said, as care budgets fall victim to local authority funding cuts ordered by the Coalition government as part of its deficit reduction strategy.

Although more than £400m was redirected from the NHS budget to prop up social care, the sector is still suffering from a shortfall of £769m, leading to a huge drop in the number of people getting the care they needed, the charity says in its new report Care in Crisis.

From 2005/6 to 2012/13, the number of people aged 65 and over in receipt of social care services dropped by a 27.2 per cent, from 1,231,000 to 896,000, despite the age group growing by one million.

At the same time the number of people aged 85 and over – the group most likely to need care – has risen by 30 per cent

The vast majority of local authorities are now only able to provide help if the person’s needs have been assessed as being ‘substantial’ or above, the report said. Older people who struggle with everyday tasks such as getting up in the morning, bathing, preparing meals or shopping are assessed as only having ‘low’ or ‘moderate’ needs and so regularly do not get any help.

The result is an unprecedented rise in the number of people forced to fend for themselves or rely on family and friends for support.

One carer told the charity that he was forced to sleep on the sofa at his mother’s house to ensure she was safe after a dementia diagnosis, while paying for a carer to work 16 hours a week. “But that didn’t even touch the sides. Mum got worse and worse, she disappeared regularly, set fire to the toaster and microwave, had two falls and took an accidental overdose requiring an emergency admission to hospital. It was one of the worst times of my life,” the son said.

Age UK’s director, Caroline Abrahams, said that elderly people were being placed “at significant risk” by cuts to local services and ever-growing gaps in care provision.

“If older people do not receive the care they need and as a consequence end up in A&E units and hospital wards, we have simply shifted people around the system at great financial cost and created distress and disruption for older people in the process,” she said. “This makes absolutely no moral or economic sense.

“At the moment too many older people who have contributed to society throughout their lives are being left to fend for themselves when they need care and support. We cannot continue to sacrifice their safety, health and dignity.”

The Government said that reform of the social care system was “a priority”. Its Care Bill, which reaches its final stages in Parliament next week, is set to introduce major reforms, including a £72,000 cap on the amount that individuals will have to spend on their own care, while £3.8bn has been set aside to join up health services with social care.

While welcoming the reforms, Age UK said that there was a “huge risk” they would be “fundamentally undermined by wholly inadequate funding” – a warning echoed by other groups.

Richard Hawkes, chair of the Care and Support Alliance, which represents 75 charities and organisations, said that “chronic underfunding” had left the care system “on its knees”.

“Older and disabled people who need help to get up or get out of the house simply aren’t getting support,” he said.

“The Care Bill has the potential to be a landmark piece of legislation, transforming the social care system. However, the success of the Care Bill will be jeopardised unless it is matched with a sustainable funding solution.”

Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said:  “Families are paying the price as need for care services continues to rise rapidly at the same time as social care budgets are being cut.

“Those currently caring for older or disabled loved ones are often struggling with little or no support, and others, worrying about their parents or their own care in the future, face an even bleaker situation unless the Government acts to set funding for social care on a sustainable footing.”

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said that both the health and social care services need to “work differently to respond to the needs of our ageing population”.

“We need to focus on keeping people well and living independently for as long as possible,” he said.

Case study

Susan George, 64, from west London, is a full-time carer for her husband Bruce, 69, who suffers from Parkinson’s and dementia

“Bruce woke up with a shaking arm in 2001. We didn’t think anything of it at the time but it got worse and was eventually diagnosed as a stroke, and he was later found to have Parkinson’s disease. We didn’t get any help then. Four years ago he was also diagnosed with dementia.

We struggled along, I didn’t know anything about the support I should get. What do you do? The dementia people at the council looked after the dementia side, the Parkinson’s people in the NHS looked after the Parkinson’s side – you get this on-going conflict between the two because they don’t work together.

I searched the internet, got in touch with social services. They did some exercises with him and put a stair rail in for us. That was a few years ago.  When I tried to get in touch again recently it took me three weeks to get through to the right person. Nobody wanted to know.

I’ve managed to get him into a dementia centre for one day a week to give me a short break, run by a charity that doesn’t charge – they have been the lifesaver, not social services. But there was a one year waiting list.

I have been a full time carer for nearly two years. I can pop out for 15 minutes, 20 minutes most, because I never know what he’s going to do. I looked into taking a holiday – it would cost £850 for someone to come in and look after him for a week. That’s not something I could afford.

What I would have liked is a little package with everything written out, telling me what I was entitled to as a carer and what was available. That’s what people need.”

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

    Technical Sales Manager

    £45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

    Humanities Teacher

    £110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...

    SQL DBA/Developer

    £500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor