A new report by the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust has found that consecutive years of budget cuts to publicly funded care is building up to a crisis point within the care system

The Real Lives Report has found cost-cutting in the social care sector, rising demand for services and a shortage of staff has meant many older people and their families are having to pay for their own care.

The report highlights evidence that reductions in fees paid by local authorities and other cost pressures such as the National Living Wage are squeezing the incomes of residential and home care providers. It warns that an increasing number are likely to leave the market or go out of business as a result, potentially leaving older people without the care they depend on.

Over the past five years, local authority spending on care for older and disabled people has fallen by 11% in real terms and the number of people who received state-funded help has fallen by around a quarter.

Unpaid carers, such as family and friends, will be expected to do even more in future, the report added. It said public spending on adult social care was set to fall to less than 1% of GDP by 2020, adding that councils would struggle to meet basic statutory duties.

Richard Humphries, Assistant Director of Policy at The King’s Fund said:

‘The failure of successive governments to reform social care has resulted in a failing system that leaves older people, their families and carers to pick up the pieces. Putting this right will be a key test of the Prime Minister’s promise of a more equal country that works for everyone – there is no more burning injustice in Britain today than older people being denied the care they need to live with independence and dignity.’

While Ruth Thorlby, Deputy Director of Policy at the Nuffield Trust said:

‘No one can predict whether they will have care needs later in life. But if they do find they need help with the basics - eating, washing, going to the toilet – most will discover that unlike a health problem where care is free, they somehow have to manage themselves.

‘Our research found that local authorities have done their best to make savings while protecting funding for the poorest, but care providers are struggling on the low fees councils can afford. Shortages of home care staff and affordable care home places mean older people are often stuck in hospital, putting both their lives and vital NHS processes on hold.

‘The number of older people needing care is increasing and yet we are continuing to put less money in. Unmet need is rising, providers are threatening to pull out of contracts, the wellbeing of carers is deteriorating, access to care is getting worse. A Government that wants to create ‘a country which works for everyone’ should not tolerate the oldest and most vulnerable falling into a social care system riddled with holes.’

Unfortunately, amongst all of this wrangling over who is to blame and what should be done, it is the elderly and their families that are bearing the brunt. And with dementia becoming an increasingly prominent issue for the elderly, it means family carers are struggling with a lack of support.

Moreover, the access to social care increasingly depends on what people can afford — and where they live — rather than on what they need. This favours the relatively well off and well informed at the expense of the poorest people who are reliant on an increasingly threadbare local authority safety net.

However, a Department of Health spokesman has said:

‘We understand the social care system is under pressure, and this government is committed to ensuring those in old age throughout the country can get affordable and dignified care.

‘That’s why we have introduced landmark reforms to ensure no-one should have to sell their home to pay for care in their lifetime, and why we’re significantly increasing the amount of money local authorities have access to for social care, by up to £3.5bn by 2020.

‘Our Care Act gave new rights to carers and we will be publishing a new carers strategy shortly.’

The BBC has created an online tool which helps you work out how much funding and support you may receive in your local area for those aged 65 and over. Click here to try it.

For more information on the benefits available to someone who cares for someone with dementia, click here.

Sources: kingsfund.org.uk and theguardian.com