Serious weaknesses in the system of long-term care for older people mean wholesale reform is needed to rescue it from its fragile state, new research has found.
Think-tank the Resolution Foundation, which does research and policy work related to people on low incomes, commissioned consultancy Deloitte to look at how the care system works as a market.
Its report says the system is undermined by a massive reliance on informal care to look after older people, which is vulnerable to future changes such as older people having more complex needs, combined with fewer younger people due to a declining birth rate. There is also a severe shortage of ‘adequate information, advice and advocacy’, which means older people and their families ‘find it hard to make informed choices about their care and how to fund it’.
The report, published today, also says care suppliers find it difficult to respond effectively to local need as they often have no idea of what are the needs of the local elderly population.
It says the systemic problems in long-term care mean policy changes in one area impact on the entire service, and that this vulnerability to being destabilised means whole-system reform is necessary.
Claudia Wood, head of research at the Resolution Foundation, said: ‘If you just do one thing or two things, it will knock it all out of synch. You need a systematic reform. If you lose a sense of the entire picture, you end up reforming piecemeal and nobody knows what they should be getting.’
The foundation will now work on possible reform solutions for the care market, with a final report planned by the end of the year. Areas to be looked at include better models for local authorities commissioning and providing care, perhaps drawing on best practice from the childcare market; and helping care homes and agencies to respond to local demand, by making information on the needs of the local elderly population available to them.