Action urged over social care costs
Published on 24 January 2012 03:00 PM
The health secretary has been urged not to 'bury his head in the sand' as a new report condemned the costs that older people are forced to pay for social care.
The report by the Commons health select committee accuses local authorities of 'penalising' older people by hiking the charges the most vulnerable pay for their care.
It found that almost half of councils have put up charges 'either moderately or substantially' for home help and other services.
MPs on the all-party committee also said social care has become a service that is 'continuing to function by restricting availability', as they revealed councils are slashing budgets by restricting free help, such as meals on wheels.
And this was despite an extra £84 million raised this financial year than in 2010/11, after a third of authorities raised fees for residential care homes.
Michelle Mitchell, Age UK's charity director, said: 'This report provides further evidence of a social care system that is not fit for purpose.
'Even the Department of Health now recognises that current funding for care is intended to do no more than hold the position steady, until a new funding system for care is developed. The minister must not bury his head in the sand. The Government's own figures show that this year, local authorities have spent 4.5% less in real terms on social care for older people alone than the previous year.
'Social care is in crisis. There are fewer services available, yet the demand for social care, particularly from a growing older population, continues to rise. The result is that nearly 800,000 older people who need care do not get any formal support. This report shows that people who need social care to help with everyday basics, such as washing, shopping, preparing meals, are being increasingly excluded from the support that they so desperately need.
'We are urging ministers to consider the evidence given to the Health Select Committee and heed urgent calls for action in the forthcoming Social Care White Paper.'
Responding to the criticism, health secretary Andrew Lansley said: 'We are giving more money to social care: in 2010 the Government committed an extra £7.2 billion for the future of social care. However, councils need to work smarter with their health professional colleagues to bring integrated services closer to people's homes in the community.'
Copyright Press Association 2012