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SOCIAL CARE RATIONING PUTS OLDER LIVES AT RISK CLAIMS NEW REPORT

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A comprehensive report from 21 organisations working with older people exposes the rationing of social care service...
A comprehensive report from 21 organisations working with older people exposes the rationing of social care services for older people, and a care sector in crisis.

The report shows that over one million older people are struggling to access care, both in their own homes and in residential care, due to the government's chronic underfunding of social care.

It claims the government is putting older peoples' lives at risk and jeopardising its own NHS plan objectives because it is failing to invest in and provide social care services. Older people cannot get the right care in the right place at the right time because the government's funding strategy neither meets nor even measures the scale of need.

The Social Policy Ageing and Information Network (SPAIN) report has been written and led by Help the Aged, Centre for Policy on Ageing, Arthritis Care, Age Concern and Alzheimer's Society.

Social care is a necessity, not a luxury. It includes enabling people to get in and out of bed, dressing, bathing, going to the toilet, eating, washing clothes and living in a clean environment. Increasingly such care includes changing catheters, dressings, treating pressure sores and managing medication.

But the SPAIN report shows that social care for older people is being rationed with devastating effect in three key areas.

- Home Care

The number of older people receiving home care is in decline, despite the number of people over 85 at its highest ever. Thousands of people are denied the home care they need because social services are so severely rationed. The government has failed to increase funding levels to meet the needs of this fastest growing proportion of the population.

- Residential Care

The residential and nursing home sector in particular is in a state of great upheaval, with over 35,000 beds lost due to care home closures in the last three years. While insufficient local authority free levels, combined with high staff vacancy and turnover rates, are threatening the government's own targets for quality standards in residential care, older people are forced to make traumatic moves to alternative care homes, many of which are inappropriate for their care needs and are far from friends and family.

- Hospital Discharge

In the last year, 700,000 older patients experienced problems and delay in leaving hospital, mainly due to a lack of community and residential care services. While the government has pledged£300 million over two years to resolve delayed discharge, this falls far short of the long term strategic funding required to secure integrated quality care for older people leaving hospital.

As the government is currently planning its future spending programme, the SPAIN group is calling for a raft of urgent actions including:

- A commitment by the department of health to increase social care spending. Local authorities currently spend£4bn net per year on older people's services. This is a nine per cent overspend of government allocation, and still does not nearly meet the need. A substantial increase is required to increase the availability and quality of services to meet older people's social care needs

- An urgent, across the board review of social care funding by the department of health. This must be based on a realistic assessment of the costs of providing social care to the level and quality required to meet the government objectives

- The establishment of a National Care Commission. This would measure demographic and spending changes, set national benchmarks of quality service and ensure transparency and accountability for users.

Help the Aged head of policy, Tessa Harding said: 'The majority of older people needing social care are in their 80s and 90s and all need help to manage day to day living. Health and social care are part of the same system, and while the government has invested new funds into the NHS, it has failed to make a similar commitment for social care. This must now be made an absolute priority by the department of health.'

Dr Gillian Dalley, director of the Centre for Policy on Ageing said: 'Many of the valuable targets to improve the quality of older peoples care in the NHS Plan and the National Service Framework will fall by the wayside if this imbalance in funding between health and social care is not addressed urgently. Increasing local integration of services is not being matched with the adequate resourcing of social care to enable the systems to work. This is seriously undermining attempts to improve the quality of care for those who receive it and access to support for those who are left to care for themselves'.

Neil Betteridge, head of public policy and campaigning at Arthritis Care said: 'The SPAIN report is a shocking indictment of how so many vulnerable people are having their basic civil and human rights eroded through lack of the most basic support.

There are eight million people in the UK with arthritis and the majority are elderly. Many need help with tasks such as dressing and washing, things critical for common decency and dignity to be maintained.

At a time when the government is in other ways providing enhanced rights and support to older and disabled people, their neglect of social care not only undermines their own policies but scandalously leaves millions in severe hardship. The government cannot act soon enough to address this in the ways recommended in the report.'

* see LGCnetfor 'GOVERNMENT DEFENDS ELDERLY CARE POLICY IN WAKE OF CRITICAL REPORT'

Note

- The SPAIN group comprises Help the Aged, Alzheimer's Society, Arthritis Care, Centre for Policy on Ageing, Age Concern England, Anchor Trust, Association of Charity Officers, Association of Retired Persons 050, Carers UK, Care and Repair, Counsel and Care, Greater London Forum for the Elderly, Hanover Housing Association, Health and Older People, Housing 21, Methodist Homes for the Aged, National Association of Citizen Advice Bureaux, Parkinson's Disease Society, Relatives and Residents Association, Stroke Association, The Leveson Centre

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