Elderly And Disabled Increasingly Relying On Family And Friends For Care

A recent report suggests that elderly and disabled people are increasingly relying on family and friends to care for them and are being excluded from social care.

Councils in England are restricting access to social services such as home care, day services and respite care because according to the Commission for Social Care Inspection of problems caused by increasing demands on social services and tension developing with the NHS. In particular NHS budget deficits are putting a strain on relationships and potentially under-mining essential partnerships.

The reality for many elderly people is that they are being left to make their own arrangements because access to services is being tightened to include only those deemed to be in the most serious need. In some cases people rely on family and friends, in others they pay for their own care and some people have no option but to do without.

With demand growing as the number of people over 65 increases and projections that numbers will continue to rise over the next 20 years by around 53 per cent and the numbers of young disabled people increasing, it seems likely that the needs of thousands of people who need extra help to remain independent will be ignored.

During 2006 around 2 million people received care from local councils. However, predictions suggest that over the next few years no local authority will provide low or moderate support, including general home care support.

In the UK there are nearly six million people who are classed as carers, with 1.5 million of those providing more than 20 hours of care per week, that’s currently around one in eight of the adult population, with numbers set to rise.

The worrying thing is that the majority of carers are taking on the role without the proper infra-structure in place as it is a complex sector and they are often given no help navigating through it.

The system is in crisis, due to the governments unwillingness to provide sufficient funds to help people with serious medical conditions.

Additional investment in the NHS has not been mirrored in social care. Inevitably the result has been that as need increases, local authorities skew what care there is available to people with high levels of need and is a damning indictment of a social care system that is failing older people.

Not providing services for people with so-called moderate needs causes much anguish for the individual – but can also result in much higher and more expensive care needs in the future and the Department of Health has stated that it is concerned about the potential effect of rising eligibility criteria.

Local authorities need to put a greater emphasis on preventive services – helping people with lower needs to avoid admission to hospital or residential care and there needs to be a proper debate over what elderly people should be expected to pay for and what the responsibility of the state and families should be.