Damning Report Highlights ‘Harsh Reality’ Of Care For Elderly

Despite a new report by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) showing that standards of care are improving and more services are now meeting the minimum standards, more and more older and disabled people are either having to find and pay for their own private care or rely on family members or friends.

Today, a charity dedicated to supporting carers welcomed the report, which outlines the “harsh reality” facing individuals and families across England who turn to social care services for help.

Researchers revealed people are increasingly having to find and pay for their own social care as councils restrict services to people with the highest levels of need.

According to the State of Social Care in England 2005-06 report, a comprehensive annual overview of the entire social care sector, councils are tightening local rules about who qualifies for state-funded social care despite spending more.

It means only those in critical need are getting care while more older and disabled people have to find other means to fund their care.

The study showed as local councils support fewer people, informal carers have to fill in the gaps, with inadequate support structures to help them and no system in many areas to help people find the services they need.

Researchers said those who have no one to rely on may have to make do without support until their situation becomes critical and added the lack of “respite” help for people who have caring responsibilities can affect their ability to hold down a job, fulfil other family responsibilities and may damage their own long-term health and emotional well-being.

CSCI chair, Dame Denise Platt, said: “Social care services in England are gradually getting better, but only for those people who manage to qualify for help.

“As councils face an increase in the number of older and disabled people and in the costs of care, many have responded by raising the threshold people have to pass before they are entitled to a council-funded service.

“As a result, irrespective of the quality of social care services, fewer people are receiving services.

“Those who do qualify for care have a high level of need. The options for people who do not meet the criteria set by their local council are limited.

“In some cases, people rely on friends and family members. In others, they pay for their own care. Some people have no option but to do without.”

In response to the report national charity Carers UK said more funding is urgently needed to ensure everybody can access essential care services.

Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “Today’s report from CSCI gives an honest account of the harsh reality faced by carers across England. CSCI rightly describes social care support as ‘patchy’ and ‘fragmented and limited’.

“We agree with CSCI that ‘support for unpaid carers remains one of the biggest public policy challenges of our time’.

“We believe the response to date from Government and care service commissioners is insufficient to meet the rising need in the population.

“Providing limited services only to those in critical need is a firefighting measure that will not address the longer term needs of an ageing population with more complex needs.

“Too often carers are left to struggle alone, often putting their own health and well-being at risk.

“Too few councils are taking a strategic approach to supporting carers and there is a lack of focus on equal opportunities. In many parts of the country support for carers needs to be radically re-thought.”

The charity said the new report backs Carers UK’s call for a thorough and honest debate about the future funding of social care.

The proportion of people in England who are over 65 is growing. Recent projections indicate a rise of 53 per cent in the number of older people with some care needs over the next 20 years; and a rise of 54 per cent in older people with a high level of need.

The number of young disabled people is also increasing. The number of children under the age of 16 with disabilities rose by 62 per cent between 1975 and 2002. Many of those children will continue to require help and support as they reach adulthood in order to live their lives to their full potential.

Researchers at the CSCI have now called for a range of improvements in the quality of services, such as care homes and home care agencies, which are registered and regulated by CSCI.

For more information, support and advice visit the Carers UK website at www.carersuk.org or contact the CarersLine on 0808 808 7777.