Audit Commission: councils ‘unprepared’ for ageing population

The majority of councils have not considered the future needs of older people over the age of 50 who are not receiving social or residential care, the Audit Commission has warned.

In a report released today, Don’t stop me now – Preparing for an ageing population, the commission said that just 28% of councils had “meaningful engagement” with the older community and had developed a co-ordinated strategy.

Commission chair Michael O’Higgins said that councils needed to expand their services and introduce “age-proofing” measures, such as home safety checks or falls prevention programmes, to help people live independently. The commission also called on councils to provide better information to the over-50s on leisure and social activities, learning opportunities and transport.

O’Higgins added: “Despite the stereotypes, only 3% of people aged between 65 and 80 live in residential care. But it’s worrying that the councils in areas with the most over-50s are the least prepared to cope with their long-term needs and interests. Ex-punk rockers and Rolling Stones fans are not going to be happy with a cup of tea and daytime TV.”

The report, based on interviews, mystery shoppers and focus groups, found that the government’s Opportunity Age strategy had had a “limited impact” on improving life for older people.

John Dixon, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said that he was “fully aware” of the problems identified in the report and that councils were working hard to adapt their services.

Help the Aged regional policy manager Belinda Wadsworth said the report’s findings were “incredibly disappointing”. She added: “The government’s strategy for older people, Opportunity Age, is fast becoming a one step forward, two steps back scheme. If it really is to create opportunities for older people, it must become more than a half-hearted, tick-box measure.”

Key findings:

  • Only 15% of people over 65 receive social care
  • 28% of councils had developed a co-ordinated strategy for older people
  • 45% of councils were in the process of developing a strategy
  • 27% of councils focused solely on social care and had not developed a wider strategy

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