A report by the charity Independent Age has found that millions of pensioners are struggling to cope at home, and thousands are not receiving adequate care. Released ahead of the Care Act, which comes into effect from April 2015, the report aims to highlight current issues with levels of care provided by local authorities.
The study reveals that over two million pensioners struggle with daily tasks such as washing, dressing, cooking and eating, and over half a million are unable to manage even the most basic personal care.
Of those two million elderly people, 850,000 do receive help, either funded by themselves or their local authority, however 70,000 of the most vulnerable, with life-limiting disabilities, receive no help or support at all. In addition, 30,000 are being informally cared for by family members for up to 50 hours a week with no support, putting the health and wellbeing of the carer at risk. For those that do receive care, the analysis found that 160,000 are receiving inadequate levels of help and support, which only sometimes or hardly ever meets their needs.
There are a number of changes coming under the new Care Act, which represents the largest overhaul of the English care system for decades. Under the new system the amount that any individual has to pay for local authority care services is capped at £72,000, designed to reduce the number of elderly people who need to sell their home to fund care. The act also places more responsibility with local authorities to ensure all older people in their area are receiving appropriate care, even those paying for care elsewhere.
However, charities such as Independent Age fear that the new act could exclude more elderly people from social care, as more stringent tests are introduced to determine who is in greatest need of care services.
Simon Bottery, director of policy at Independent Age, said, “the Care Act is intended to ensure that older people receive better care and support but this new research highlights alarming gaps even in existing levels of care. Councils need to be acting now if the promises of the Care Act are to be fulfilled but national government also has to ensure that there is enough funding to properly implement it.”
In addition to the introduction of the new Care Act, local authorities will also face further budget cuts, increasing fears that care will be available to less older people: “Local authorities are dealing with huge budget cuts and it seems that every day there is another horror story of an older person failed by the system,” said Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK.
In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said that next year’s £5.3 billion Better Care Fund would help improve the situation.