The UK is heading towards the bottom of the OECD league table for spending on adult social care, a leading think tank has warned.
Approximately 1.86million older people over the age of 50 in England have unmet care needs, an analysis by the International Longevity Centre (ILC) shows – an increase of 120,000 since 2008/09.
Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Spending Review that councils will be allowed to increase council tax by 2% to fund local social care provision.
However, the ILC says local authorities with the highest concentration of older people and unpaid carers will be the least able to raise funding from the 2% council tax precept.
The ILC warns of a “polarisation of care” in the UK, leading to a two-tier system where those who can afford it will turn to private providers while others will become increasingly dependent on informal carers.
A lack in investment in social care will result in growing reliance on unpaid carers, which in turn would have significant economic and social implications.
The ILC argues that even if measures announced in the Spending Review bring £3.5bn into adult social care, which they describe as “highly unlikely”, it would only return spending to 2015 levels by the end of the parliament.
This would represent a real-terms fall in spending on adult social care by 2020, the think tank says, placing the UK towards the bottom end of the OECD league table.
The number of people accessing adult social care services has fallen by 30% since 2008/09, while the number of people aged 80 and over has risen by 800,000 in the last ten years.
Meanwhile, the number of home carers providing over 50 hours of care for loved-ones stands at around 1.5 million. Without investment in formal adult social care the need for unpaid carers will increase, the ILC says.
Rising demand on family members to provide unpaid care for relatives will prevent more of them from being able to work, the think tank says. And the ILC warns of an “erosion in the quality of care provided” without greater support for unpaid carers.
Ben Franklin, Head of Economics of an Ageing society at ILC-UK said: “The future for adult social care looks bleak.
“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 said: “This report reinforces 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 this country.
“As such it is a wake-up call for the public, women especially, because they make up most family carers. Over the last twenty 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.”