The gap between social care funding and need has grown by £500m for older people in England in 2011-12, compounding a situation in which 800,000 pensioners were already going without services.
That was the message from Age UK in a report today that warns that a multi-billion injection of cash is required to ensure the care system can serve all who need it by 2015.
Eight hundred thousand older people in need of social care were not receiving formal support in 2010, previous research for the charity by the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the London School of Economics had found.
PSSRU estimated that £7.8bn, excluding user charges, would need to be spent on older people’s social care by councils in England in 2011-12 to ensure no further increase in unmet need; however, just £7.3bn was spent, found Age UK’s latest report, part of its ongoing Care in Crisis campaign.
Were social care spending for older people to remain flat in real terms until 2015, the charity estimates that this funding gap would grow to £2.1bn.
“Behind these figures are real older people struggling to cope without the support they need, compromising their dignity and safety on a daily basis,” said Age UK’s charity director, Michelle Mitchell.
Age UK called for a multi-billion pound package of measures to revive the care system, including:-
- An entitlement to care and support for all those with moderate needs and above under the Fair Access to Care Services system. This is yet to be costed but the bill would be several billion pounds.
- Implementation of the Dilnot commission’s proposals, notably a cap on lifetime care costs for all at £35,000, extending state funding to existing self-funders. This would cost £2.2bn a year by 2015.
The Local Government Association said the findings reflected the scale of government cuts to councils, whose budgets are due to contract by 4.7% this year and 3.3% in 2012-13, without adjustment for inflation.
“Local authorities, which are already squeezing every pound through cutting red-tape, making back office savings, linking services and exploring a whole range of other innovations, are going to find it increasingly difficult to make further savings against a backdrop of escalating costs, a system that is underfunded and compounded now by severe funding cuts,” said LGA community well-being board chair David Rogers.
However, care services minister Paul Burstow re-iterated his long-held view that cuts to service levels were councils’ responsibility. “The government has provided enough for councils to maintain the current levels of access and eligibility if they work hard and smart, and invest in new ways of working like telecare and reablement,” he added.
Filling the gap between need and funding was as much a matter of reforms to the way the system worked, through increased investment in prevention and reablement and greater integration with the NHS, as it was about resources, said Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Peter Hay.
However, with the government due to issue a White Paper on the long-term reform of adult social care this spring, Hay issued a challenge to ministers: “We have offered the government a sector that’s open to bold and innovative reform. It’s up to the government to take [the offer].”