Social care for elderly facing "complete collapse"

SOCIAL CARE for older people is on "borrowed time" and an overwhelmed system is now in danger of complete collapse, a new report has warned.

The study by Age UK shows there are now 1.18m people over 65 who don't receive the care and support they need with essential daily activities, up by 17.9 per cent on last year and by nearly half (48 per cent) compared with 2010. That means one in eight older people now lives with some level of unmet need.

Almost half of councils (48 per cent) reported at least one homecare provider had ceased trading in 2015-16, while 59 per cent said at least one provider had handed back a contract. Two of the largest homecare providers also left the council market.

Meanwhile, 77 per cent of councils reported that at least one care home in their area had ceased trading.

The staff vacancy rate across social care has risen from 4.5 per cent in 2012-13 to 6.8 per cent in 2015-16. The figure is 11.4 per cent homecare staff. Turnover rates rose from 22.7 per cent to 27.3 per cent per annum over the same period.

The proportion of people providing unpaid care for family and friends has risen from 16.6 per cent in 2011 to 17.8 per cent in 2015. Age UK said people are providing care at greater levels of intensity and dealing with increasingly complex needs. Although overall numbers of carers are rising, the lack of a big rise in the proportion of the population providing care suggests informal care has not been able to grow quickly enough to fill the gap left by declining formal services.

There are now over two million carers over 65, 417,000 of whom over 80. Nearly two-thirds of carers are themselves living with a health condition or disability, while 72 per cent report feeling pain or discomfort.

The Government says it is making £7.6bn available to councils in dedicated social care funding over the next four years.

But Age UK said that in the five years to 2015-16, public spending on older people's social care fell by £160m in real terms during a period of rapidly rising demand due to an ageing population, the report said.

By 2020-21, spending would have to increase by a minimum of £1.65bn to £9.9bn to just to mitigate the impact of demographic and cost pressures alone and maintain current levels of provision.

Age UK said that while the minimum amount allocated to local authorities through the Better Care Fund will rise from £3.86bn in 2016-17 to £5.33bn in 2019-20, the extra investment is "heavily back-loaded", meaning it will have little or no impact this year or next.

Meanwhile, the social care precept on council is expected to fall short of the £1.8bn a year the Government expected it to raise, and its impact varies by area, it added.

"This is an incredibly serious situation that demands an immediate Government response," said Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's charity director.

"We urge the Government to make an emergency injection of funds into social care in the Spring Budget to stave off the risk of complete collapse. But even that's not enough: the Government must also get on with developing a long-term solution to the care crisis and listen to older and disabled people and all parts of the health and care sector about what is required. This process cannot happen behind closed doors in Whitehall; we must also engage the public in the important question of how we pay for a decent care system we can put our faith in if we or someone we love needs it."

Responding to the report, Margaret Willcox, president-elect of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: "With councils projecting a total overspend on adult social care of nearly £450m by the end of this financial year, increases in demand and cost of social care, providers closing, a rising ageing population and those living with increasingly complex needs, immediate, significant, long-term and sustainable funding is needed to stabilise a care market in crisis.

"Only genuine new money will solve the crisis which will only get worse while we wait for a solution."


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