Older Carers ‘Need’ More Support

Older people who provide care for family members are being denied essential support by social services, according to charity IndependentAge. The organisation says that as a result many of them will be forced to give up caring because of poor health. Almost a quarter of people who support someone for more than 50 hours a week are themselves aged over 80. The government says local authorities will get £200m over the next two years for older people’s projects.

The charity found that older carers wanted basic help with things like household chores, shopping and personal care. IndependentAge surveyed almost 3,000 people between April and July this year. It is estimated that there are more than 1.5m people aged over 60 who provide unpaid care with more than 8,000 aged over 90.

“Our research illustrates that older carers want to stay in their own homes and support the people they love,” said Nikki Hill of IndependentAge. But she says basic, practical support is essential in order for people to be able to continue providing care. “We are calling on the government to prioritise investment in the services that older people say they need, in the forthcoming spending review and we’re asking the opposition parties to support our call.”

IndependentAge is concerned that pressure on local authority budgets has led to a raising of the eligibility criteria for care services. It says this has a disproportionate impact on older people who find it difficult to access community support. And the charity says that low-level support in people’s homes will often prevent the need for more complex and more costly levels of support like hospital or residential care.

“Many older carers are facing a bleak future with stark choices,” said Ms Hill.

The government said it was up to local councils to set their own criteria for adult social care. A Department of Health spokesperson said they have a statutory duty to assess a person’s needs and to meet those needs.

“In the white paper we launched earlier this year, we pledged to do more for carers, including establishing a helpline, ensuring short-term, home-based respite support to carers…and allocating funding for the creation of an expert carers programme,” the spokesperson said. “Local authorities may claim that their funding is not enough, but there is tangible evidence that much is being achieved.”

According to the Department of Health the number of older people being helped to live at home has exceeded its target. And the number of people over 75 who are kept in hospital but who no longer require medical treatment has fallen by 72%.