A sharp rise in the number of people aged over 65 is forcing many county councils to consider new charges for social care and cuts to other services, it has emerged.
The County Councils Network (CCN) has called on government to reform “outdated” local government funding to recognise the levels of older people in county areas, and argued the Department of Health & Social Care should set out steps to “fairly” fund social care services as part of its green paper this summer.
Figures from CCN show that the number of older people increased by a higher rate in rural county areas (10%) between 2013-16 than other parts of the country. The research, which Pixel Financial Management helped to collate, showed the national average growth in older people populations was 9% over that same timeframe.
|Elderly population growth by local authority type 2013-16|
|Council type||Percentage growth|
The research also found Northamptonshire is the area that has witnessed the biggest increase in elderly population between 2013-16.
|Top five county areas facing elderly population boom 2013-16|
As current funding allocations do not take these rises into account, CCN claim county residents are facing disproportionate cuts to services compared to urban areas as councils are left “tens of millions” of pounds short of being able to meet demand.
This has fueled the NHS winter crisis by placing intense pressure on hospitals and social care services, CCN said, and added councils are having to consider introducing new charges for social care and cutting other services, such as children’s centres and libraries.
Colin Noble (Con), CCN’s health and social care spokesman, said: “We are dealing with an elderly population boom on an unprecedented scale, creating significant pressure at a time when we can scarcely afford it, with counties facing severe financial difficultly that threatens existence of highly-valued public services and means we have to reluctantly consider charging for other life-critical services.
“Of course, people living healthier and longer, not to mention choosing to live in our historic counties, should be celebrated. But this growth – and therefore extra demand - is not reflected in the way that our councils are presently funded. This is outdated, unfair, and unsustainable in the long-term.”
Cllr Nolan said ministers had recognised that the current funding system was “outdated, unfair and unsustainable” and he called for over-65 population growth to be a “key indicator” in the fair funding review.
Dan Bates, from Pixel Financial Management, said “a fair funding system needs to be sufficiently dynamic to reflect changing population patterns so that increasingly limited resources are targeted according to needs”.