Hundreds Of Thousands Of Elderly ‘Could Lose Home Help In A Year’

Nearly 400,000 elderly people could lose their home help after next year, local councils. They said assistance for frail and vulnerable older people will be withdrawn unless taxpayers pump extra billions into council coffers.

{mosimage}Leaders called on Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling to pay money into their social services rather than into the NHS and hospitals in the major Whitehall spending review due next month.

The warning put hundreds of thousands of older people who depend on help paid for by social services at the centre of a spat between local government chiefs and Mr Brown.

Home help includes vital everyday assistance with dressing, washing, cooking, shopping and keeping house. Without it many elderly people would become isolated, ill, and unable to live by themselves – and many would be forced to abandon independent lives and go to live in care homes.

Sir Simon Milton, leader of the Local Government Association, set out the warning in a letter to council bosses.

He told them that unless town halls are given generous treatment in the Comprehensive Spending Review, “then there will be real difficulties.”

“In the next three years alone, there will be more than 400,000 more older people, many of whom will require social care.

“Without additional funding, local government may potentially face a situation by as early as 2009 where it cannot afford to provide support to 370,000 people with lower levels of need.”

He added: “This is not a situation older people and their families expect or deserve.”

But Sir Simon said there would have to be “frank discussions with residents about what care services can and should be delivered for free in the future.”

Town halls have been gradually withdrawing home help from all but the most severely sick and disabled elderly people in recent years.

The Daily Mail’s Dignity for the Elderly campaign has highlighted the growing difficulties for older people of getting help at home and the humiliation and financial ruin that often goes with moving into a care home.

Gordon Brown’s former troubleshooter Sir Derek Wanless produced a report earlier this year which said that social workers often try to persuade older people to go into care homes so their council can force them to sell their own homes to meet the care home bills.

Charities for older people backed the call for more spending on social services for the elderly.

Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern said: “It is a disgrace that half a million older people are already being denied social care due to chronic underinvestment in the system.

“Without a significant commitment to increase funding for social care in real terms, many more older people will be denied this basic, but essential help.

“Failure to invest in social care is short-sighted. Without practical help older people can end up needing higher levels of care sooner than they would otherwise.”

But ministers accused councils of lobbying for more cash and warned them to save money by increasing efficiency.

Local Government Minister John Healey said: “This Government has a proven record in providing local authorities with sound funding. There is scope for significant efficiency savings which we and the local taxpayer expect to see.

“We do have capping powers and we are prepared to use them to protect the council tax payer from excessive increases if necessary.”