Elderly Care Poll Is Wake Up Call For Public

Four out of five adults of all ages expect help from their council if they have basic care needs when they reach old age – even though all of these services could be withdrawn completely by 2009, a new report has revealed.

{mosimage}The Local Government Association commissioned Ipsos/MORI to ask people what kind of financial assistance they would expect to receive from their local authority for basic care that will help them live independently in their own homes. The results reveal a startling gap between people’s expectation of what care they will receive and the actual reality.

Only 10% of respondents said they would expect to pay for all their basic care – although 100 per cent of people with low and moderate needs could have to do that within the next three years if current trends continue. Basic care needs include help with shopping, cleaning and getting dressed.

Without a care? – the LGA’s new report – shows central government funding has not kept pace with the needs of an ageing population and older people’s increasingly complex needs.

Support for services such as social care through the general grant has increased by just 14% in real terms since 1997/98. This is in stark contrast to the NHS, which has seen a 90% rise over the same period. Half of local authorities with social care responsibilities received a government grant increase below inflation this year.

Council leaders said today that by switching savings that could be made in the NHS to social care, local authorities can help keep people healthy and out of hospital.

Otherwise councils will have to continue withdrawing basic care to concentrate resources on the increasing numbers of older people with the most substantial or critical needs.

Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the LGA, said: “This poll reveals a startling gulf between the type of care people expect when they reach old age and the reality of what they may receive.

“Unless the Government takes urgent action, older people may not receive basic care to help them stay at home by April 2009. Hundreds of thousands could lose or have to pay for the little services that mean so much, like help with washing or getting dressed.

“Older people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Councils want to provide the services they need and help them safely through the day, but are increasingly unable to do so because central government funding has not kept pace with the demands of an ageing population. This is not a situation that older people deserve or indeed expect.

“In the next three years alone, there will be over 400,000 more older people – an increase of five per cent – 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 the 370,000 people with lower levels of need.

“There must be a serious debate about how the care needs of an ageing population are funded. Council tax payers, including millions of older people, have had to pick up the tab and they simply cannot afford to pay any more,” added Lord Bruce-Lockhart

“The Government does not need to excessively increase public spending. The money is there, it is just in the wrong place. Investing in services such as basic help at home can help prevent the slips, trips and falls that result in people needing more expensive hospital treatment.

“It is surely unjust that people have to wait until their life is threatened, or suffer from a serious mental and physical illness, before they receive care.

“If the Chancellor is not prepared to pay for providing the type of care the vast majority of people expect, then the Government must be honest about what it is prepared to fund, the impact this will have on local services and the burden it is choosing to shift onto council tax payers.”