Monday, December 9, 2019
Home Society More than 1m UK older people risk 'withering away' from hunger

More than 1m UK older people risk ‘withering away’ from hunger

Cross-party group of politicians says isolation and cuts are driving ‘hidden’ malnutrition.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “More than 1m UK older people risk ‘withering away’ from hunger” was written by Patrick Butler Social policy editor, for theguardian.com on Monday 22nd January 2018 14.44 UTC

More than 1 million older people are at risk of “withering away in their own homes” as a result of malnutrition caused by social isolation and cuts to public services, a cross-party group of peers and MPs claims.

The all-party parliamentary group on hunger says social isolation caused by bereavement, illness, immobility or confinement – such as through the loss of a driving licence – are the main causes of a largely “hidden” problem of elderly hunger in the UK.

Malnutrition, which costs the NHS an estimated £12bn a year, is exacerbated by reductions to social care packages, cuts to meals on wheels services and bus services, and local shop closures, a report by the all-party group says.

“Loneliness accompanied by a bowl of cereal and two sandwiches, every day, every week, should be unacceptable in modern Britain. But within the current legislative framework, it is almost inevitable,” it says.

The report says there is a heightened risk of malnutrition among older people who do not qualify for formal social care packages or whose help does not include assistance with shopping or cooking hot meals.

Annual spending on meals on wheels services was cut from £96m to £42m in the decade to 2013-14, it says. Fewer than half of local authorities now provide the service, down from 66% in 2011. Some councils have replaced meals on wheels with a link on their website to takeaway food shops, the report adds.

It calls for the withdrawal of winter fuel allowances from the very richest pensioners to invest in local services aimed at reducing isolation, hunger and malnutrition by providing – or making it easier for older people to access – hot and fresh food.

Supermarkets should do more to make it easier for older people to go shopping, it says, by providing community transport, offering lunch clubs in store cafes and introducing special “slow” checkout lanes for less mobile customers.

There are at least 1.3 million older people suffering from or at risk of malnutrition, the report estimates, although it points out that the latest robust figures date back to 2011, and hospitals rarely record malnutrition as a primary reason for admission.

Frank Field, chair of the parliamentary group, said: “Hidden beneath the radar, there are malnourished older people in this country spending two or three months withering away in their own homes, with some entering hospital weighing five and a half stone [35kg] with an infection or following a fall, which keeps them there for several tortuous days, if not weeks.

“The elimination of malnutrition amongst older people is urgently required for the sake of the NHS, and social care services, but above all for purposes of humaneness.”

Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Significant funding pressures on councils are already threatening services that elderly people and their friends and families rely on, particularly meals on wheels and luncheon clubs.”

A government spokesperson said: “Malnutrition is a complex issue and most patients diagnosed in England have other serious health and social problems. We know better diagnosis and detection is key which is why we continue to train all health staff to spot the early warning signs of malnutrition so effective treatment can be put into place.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Newsletter

Subscribe Now! Get weekly news updates delivered straight to your email inbox and never miss out on the issues that matter most to you (BETA). Or follow us on social media.

16,705FansLike
9,401FollowersFollow

Trending Now

Man born without arms or legs told to prove he is disabled enough for benefits

Meanwhile, a Tory candidate has suggested that disabled people should be paid less because they "don't understand money".

A homeless person dies every 19 hours in austerity Britain

Services are failing to protect homelessness people, say campaigners.

Benefit payment dates over Christmas and New Year 2019-20

You may receive benefit payments early over Christmas and New Year. Check here to see if this applies to you and your family.

Cancer patient forced to rely on food banks says DWP needs to ‘wake up’ to the ‘cruelty’ of Universal Credit

A cancer patient says she has been forced to rely on food banks after being refused Universal Credit.

DWP forced to admit more than 111,000 benefit deaths

Department has been forced to release updated Employment and Support Allowance mortality statistics.

More News

Man born without arms or legs told to prove he is disabled enough for benefits

Meanwhile, a Tory candidate has suggested that disabled people should be paid less because they "don't understand money".

One million UK children face a Christmas without warmth or fresh food, charity warns

Action for Children says child poverty levels are at the worst they can remember.

Jo Swinson ‘sorry’ for backing Tory benefit cuts

Liberal Democrat leader grilled on her voting record while in coalition government with the Tories.

Cancer patient forced to rely on food banks says DWP needs to ‘wake up’ to the ‘cruelty’ of Universal Credit

A cancer patient says she has been forced to rely on food banks after being refused Universal Credit.

A child becomes homeless in Britain every eight minutes, report reveals

Shelter calls on every political party to put housing at the top of its domestic agenda.

Newsletter

Get weekly news updates delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe today!