Budget cuts have left hundreds of thousands of older people without care and risk undermining the Care Bill, Age UK has warned.
The charity’s Care in Crisis 2014 report said that local authority spending on social care for older people had fallen by £1.2bn since 2010 despite significant increases in the number of people aged 65 and over. Though £438m has been transferred to councils from the NHS in the meantime, this would still leave a funding cut of £769m since 2010 if all of the NHS money had been spent on older people’s care.
Cuts made since 2005 have resulted in in 335,000 fewer people aged 65 and over, despite the number of pensioners growing by more than one million over that time.
While the charity said it welcomed the reforms set out in the Care Bill – which aim to shift social care from a focus on crisis intervention to providing people with earlier support to stay independent – it said these risk being “fundamentally undermined” by the funding situation.
The reductions in spending have also seen local authorities increase the thresholds for support with 87% of councils only offering care if a person’s needs are deemed to be ‘substantial’ or higher. This, the charity says, has left many who struggle with everyday tasks like bathing and shopping going without help.
“The figures we have uncovered are catastrophic,” said Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK.
“If older people do not receive the care they need and as a consequence end up in A&E units and hospital wards, we have simply shifted people around the system at great financial cost and created distress and disruption for older people in the process. This makes absolutely no moral or economic sense.”
Age UK urged the government to use this month’s Budget announcement, on 19 March, to inject more funding into the system.
“The government deserves credit for bringing forward long overdue reforms to the social care system,” said Abrahams. “But without the money to back them up older people will see little if any benefit.”