Blitz generation bears the brunt of £500m crisis in social care

Funding gap is damaging the dignity and health of those aged over 85, charity warns

Frail and vulnerable Second World War veterans are among a generation of elderly people being stripped of their dignity, health and independence by a "critical" £500m shortfall in the social care system, a charity has claimed.

The number of Britons aged 85 or over has risen by 250,000 since 2004-5, but spending on care for older people has fallen over the same period despite the greater needs of a very elderly population, according to Age UK.

One in four people can expect to have a stroke if they live beyond 85, while one third of people aged 95 or over have some form of dementia. Two-thirds of men and women over 85 have some kind of disability or long-standing illness.

Yet this generation is bearing the brunt of a crisis in social care which is denying them the services they need to maintain their dignity, health and independence, the charity warned.

Michelle Mitchell, the head of Age UK, said: "The crisis in social care is resulting in devastating experiences for those older people who survived the Second World War and who deserve so much better.

"As the country pauses to honour the heroic generation who fought for Britain, who defended Britain in the Blitz and who kept the home fires burning, it is absolutely vital that we remember that many of these people are now struggling to get the high-quality social care and support they need to live decently in old age."

The charity's latest analysis suggests that a growing demand for services, combined with a £341m cut in older people's social care budgets in 2011-12, has created a £500m shortfall.

The charity warns that care services have been "whittled to the bone" while the costs of residential care have increased by 4.6 per cent across England and up to 14 per cent in London and the South-east. Meanwhile, local authority home care visits have been restricted to those people with the most pressing needs.

In 2011-12, nearly 80 per cent of local authorities set their eligibility threshold for adult social care at "substantial", and a further 3 per cent set their threshold at "critical". It means hundreds of thousands of the poorest, frailest people are denied state support to plan and pay for essential care.

Age UK urged the Government to tackle the crisis, while committing in the next Comprehensive Spending Review to implement a £35,000 cap on the lifetime cost of care. It argued that this, together with care reform, was vital to create a system that was fair, sustainable and practicable. "Social care is not a luxury. It provides essential support to help people carry out everyday tasks," said Ms Mitchell.