A coalition of leading charities has warned that thousands of vulnerable older people have been left without care and support after a £150m real terms cut in spending on services in England last year.
A report by the NHS Information Centre showed that, adjusting for inflation, spending on personal social services for older people fell by 1.7% in 2007-08 compared to the previous year.
The figures revealed that spending on older people’s services declined by 2.5% for home care, 2% for residential care placements and by 3.2% for nursing care placements.
The Right Care, Right Deal campaign coalition – comprising Help the Aged, Counsel and Care and Carers UK – called the decrease in spending “disgraceful”. Paul Cann, director of policy and external relations at Help the Aged, said: “In reality this might mean people can’t get up in the morning, leave the house or shop for food.
“It simply doesn’t make sense that despite the growing numbers of older people needing care, the overall amount of care provided is decreasing – this invariably means more pressure on carers and family putting their health, employment and finances at risk.”
David Rogers, chair of the community wellbeing board at the Local Government Association, called for a “thorough root and branch review” of care for older people. He said: “Councils want to provide the services vulnerable people deserve, but the resources available are letting them down.”
LGA programme director for community wellbeing Anne McDonald said that it was possible that councils’ increasingly strict eligibility criteria for adult social care were having an effect on spending. From 2006-7 to 2007-8, the proportion of authorities operating ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ thresholds, under the Fair Access to Care Services guidance, rose from 62% to 73%.
Possible error in figures
However, McDonald sounded a note of caution as the NHS Information Centre had questioned whether spending had been wrongly attributed between client groups by some councils. The LGA will be looking at council budgets itself as part of an annual survey carried out in conjunction with Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
She said: “We hope to have some figures in two or three weeks’ time. It will be a good check on whether we’re chasing an error or a real problem.”
McDonald added that more efficient use of money through direct payments could account in some part for the apparent drop in spending. According to the NHS Information Centre report, spending on direct payments increased by 28% in 2007-08 to £425m.
Age Concern and Mencap knock councils for adult care cuts