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Tens of thousands of vulnerable people in Britain are “trapped” in mounting social care debts and more than 1,000 have have been taken to court in the past two years alone, according to “stark” statistics uncovered by the GMB union.

Freedom of information requests sent to every local authority in Britain revealed that at least 166,000 people are trapped in debt for their social care, and 1,178 people have faced court action over arrears.

The figures also show than 78,000 care users have had debt management procedures forced upon them by their local authority.

Sharon Wilde, GMB National Officer, said: “These stark figures show the UK’s social care ticking timebomb has now blown a gaping hole in families’ finances.

“The fact more than 1,000 people have been taken to court because they’re unable to pay for their own care – or that of their loved ones – shows the system just isn’t working.

“Meanwhile, our ageing population is creating a huge demand for care staff – but caring is still not seen as a sought after career.

“The lack of local authority funding often means low pay – and the sector is struggling to recruit and retain the dedicated staff needed to provide the best care to the UK’s most vulnerable people.

“We need a clear, coherent strategy for funding social care now and in the future.

“Otherwise the struggle to recruit and retain carers will become even more acute, while tens of thousands of people are plunged into debt trying to pay for the level of support that they need.”

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Ken Butler, Welfare Rights Adviser for Disability Rights UK said: “This high level of debt among social care users shows the urgent need for rearm of the whole social care system.

“Many disabled people are told that their care needs are not high enough to receive social care.

“Disabled people have been the worst hit by welfare benefit cuts. The introduction of PIP has led to 25% of people losing their DLA and many with a reduced award.

“Around half of new PIP claimants receive no award at all. One consequence of this is that disabled people have even less money to fund what is an often an inadequate care package.

“The situation uncovered by the GMB shows the need for urgent reform of both the welfare benefit and social care systems.

“Good social care should be a right to all that need it and should not mean falling into a spiral of debt in order to pay for it”