Cuts to social care funding are “placing an unacceptable burden on unpaid carers” and leaving a rising number of older people “without any support at all”, according to a damning new report from The Kings Fund and the Nuffield Trust.
The report warns that “older people are paying the price for cuts to social care”, with the level of care a person can expect to receive largely dependent on where they live or how much money they have.
Six years of consecutive cuts to local authority funding, together with increased demand and staff shortages, “have left the social care system increasingly unable to meet the needs of the older people who depend on it”.
Evidence also suggests that “reductions in fees paid by local authorities and other cost pressures such as the National Living Wage are squeezing the incomes of residential and home care providers”. Some care providers could even be pushed out of business, leaving care users without the support they need or solely dependent on friends and relatives – unpaid carers.
Some care providers in more affluent areas have already begun denying care to people funded by local authorities, the report says. Adding: “more people are having to pay for their own care as a result of cuts to local authority services”.
The report highlights a growing gap in social care funding, expected to reach a staggering £2.8bn by 2019/20. Public spending on social care has now fallen below 1% of GDP and looks set to continue falling.
The charities are calling for a “fresh debate” on the future of social care funding, and have also urged the government to be “honest with the public about what they can expect from local authority services”.
Richard Humphries, Assistant Director of Policy at The King’s Fund said: ‘”The failure of successive governments to reform social care has resulted in a failing system that leaves older people, their families and carers to pick up the pieces.
“Putting this right will be a key test of the Prime Minister’s promise of a more equal country that works for everyone – there is no more burning injustice in Britain today than older people being denied the care they need to live with independence and dignity.”
Ruth Thorlby, Deputy Director of Policy at the Nuffield Trust said: “No one can predict whether they will have care needs later in life. But if they do find they need help with the basics – eating, washing, going to the toilet – most will discover that unlike a health problem where care is free, they somehow have to manage themselves.
“Our research found that local authorities have done their best to make savings while protecting funding for the poorest, but care providers are struggling on the low fees councils can afford. Shortages of home care staff and affordable care home places mean older people are often stuck in hospital, putting both their lives and vital NHS processes on hold.
“The number of older people needing care is increasing and yet we are continuing to put less money in. Unmet need is rising, providers are threatening to pull out of contracts, the wellbeing of carers is deteriorating, access to care is getting worse.
“A Government that wants to create ‘a country which works for everyone’ should not tolerate the oldest and most vulnerable falling into a social care system riddled with holes.”
Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Today’s joint report from The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust shows the cumulative impact on older people and their families of year on year cuts to social care.
“Reinforcing Carers UK’s own research findings, the new analysis describes an increasingly haphazard and complex social care system. Older people and carers are struggling to navigate their way to support and even getting basic care needs met increasingly depends on where you live and what resources you have.
“The report should come as a wake-up call to the new Government that sustainable funding of social care must be at the top of their agenda.”
Seperate research from NHS Digital found that more families are now paying for additional care. 10.4% of care users responding to a survey said their families paid for additional care in 2015-16, up from 9.5% in 2014-15.
Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK, said: “From our own research, we know that carers and their loved ones are increasingly being asked to pay for the basic care and support services they need. Worryingly, today’s report confirms that this is a growing trend.
“The amount and type of support that someone who is disabled, older or seriously-ill needs does not change depending on the care services available to them.
“With families providing more care for more hours than ever before, and local authority leaders increasingly pessimistic about their ability to meet even statutory care and support needs, families are having little option but to step-in and provide this care or pay for additional services. This pressure is dangerous and unsustainable, pushing many families to breaking point.
“By 2017, the number of people needing care will have outstripped the number of working age family members able to provide it, so there has never been a more crucial time to look at what support carers and their families need now and in to the future.
“With individuals already giving so much in terms of care costs and unpaid care, it is time for a new conversation about the balance between family and state contribution and for a funding system for care which is fair and transparent.”