‘Future of adult social care looks bleak,’ says ILC economist
Detailed analysis of the social care funding measures outlined in the Spending Review reveals a bleak future for older people needing care, according to the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK).
About 1.86m people over the age of 50 in England (1 in 10) have unmet care needs – an increase of 120,000 people (or 7%) since 2008/9, says the ILC. Data from 326 local authorities had shown that the councils with the highest concentration of older people and unpaid carers would be the ones that will bring in the least amount of money from the 2% council tax precept.
ILC-UK points out that even if the Spending Review announcements bring £3.5bn into adult social care, a scenario they describe as “highly unlikely”, this will still only mean that spending on care returns to 2015 levels by the end of the Parliament. This level of funding would imply an overall fall in expenditure on care as a proportion of GDP putting the UK firmly towards the bottom end of the OECD league table.
The think tank argues that the low level of funding offered is likely to result in a polarisation of care – private formal care for those that can afford it, rising reliance on informal carers and increasing unmet needs for those that can’t.
The ILC-UK report – The end of formal adult social care – points out that the numbers accessing care services have fallen by half a million since 2008/9 (a drop of 30%) despite a growing ageing population. The number of over 80s have risen by 800,000 in the last decade.
“The future for adult social care looks bleak,” said Ben Franklin, head of economics of an ageing society at ILC-UK.
“The social care settlement will be insufficient to meet the growing care needs of an ageing population and does little more than paper over the cracks which many of those who are in need of care are already falling through.
“While some will be able to rely on family to support their needs, increased prevalence of unpaid caring may have adverse consequences for those providing support, for the economy as a whole due to reduced employment, and without additional investment may even lead to an erosion in the quality of care provided.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, which supported ILC-UK in the preparation of the report, said it reinforced the consensus among experts that the measures the Government announced in the Spending Review will not be enough to arrest the further decline of social care in the UK.
“As such it is a wake-up call for the public, women especially, because they make up most family carers,” said Ms Abrahams.
“Over the last 20 years the need to provide a system of childcare has been first recognised and then at least partially met, in order to enable more women to work and support decent family incomes. Now many of those same women, or sometimes their mothers, could find they have to leave work to care for their own ageing parents, because we are effectively dismantling our system of social care. “This is the wrong political and economic choice and it will hurt older people and their families.”