Shock As Care Services For Older People Are Cut

A £150m cut in spending on social care services for older people in England was revealed today by the Department of Health’s information centre.

It said local authorities spent £8.77bn on care for vulnerable pensioners in 2007-08, a cut of 1.7% in real terms on the year before.

The cut came before councils began wrestling with financial pressures caused by the economic recession, which has increased demand for council services and reduced income from rents and charges.

Charities for older people said it was shocking that the cut in services coincided with a 4% increase in the number of people over 85, who are most in need of help.

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: “Council leaders and ministers should hang their heads in shame. It beggars belief that less is being spent on older people than a year ago. Even spending on home care has fallen, yet it is supposed to be the main plank of care and support policies.”

He added: “People who need help are being turned away because local authorities are applying ever more restrictive rules and are raising the charges made for services. Where is the dignity in denying older people the services they need? We cannot go on like this in a civilised society. Older people must get the help they need, and that help must be good quality.”

David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at the learning-disability charity Mencap, said: “These figures reveal the true horror of the social care crisis. It is outrageous that the spending on social care has been cut at a time when demand for services in increasing.

“The government must take action by providing an immediate and substantial increase in funding, so the social care system doesn’t continue to fail our most vulnerable citizens.”

The Local Government Association said the slight fall in real-terms spending should not be taken as evidence that fewer people were being cared for, or that their care was substandard.

David Rogers, chairman of the association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Difficult decisions lie ahead, as those born during the baby boom reach old age. The number of over-65s is predicted to increase by more than 3 million people in the next 15 years. There is also going to be a big rise in the number of people who need support because of conditions such as dementia. It is increasingly urgent that we address the issue of how the country will pay for the care of our ageing population.”

He added: “Councils want to provide the services vulnerable people deserve, but the resources available are letting them down. There needs to be a thorough, root-and-branch review of care for the elderly, including how it is provided, managed and funded. There is no point fiddling around at the edges when what is needed is a revolution in social care.”

Phil Hope, the care services minister, said: “Over the last 10 years, spend on all adult social services has increased by 50% in real terms. We are committed to making sure older people get high quality care, and the forthcoming care and support green paper will make proposals on how they system can be further reformed and improved so it is fit for the 21st century.”