Adult social care funding falling 'significantly'
Published on 13 March 2014 01:00 PM
Older people are bearing the brunt of large cuts in public spending on social care, a new report suggests.
The National Audit Office's (NAO) Adult Social Care in England: Overview study warns that demand for care is growing while public spending is falling 'significantly'.
It warned that both national and local government do not know how long care and health systems can continue to balance this challenging equation.
Spending on adult social care dropped by 8%
Three-quarters of the savings in social care spending have come from cuts to services, especially for older people, the report said.
The study showed that 85% of adults over 65 now live in local authorities which only provide services for adults with substantial or critical needs.
Spending on adult social care dropped by 8% (£1.4 billion) in real terms over the three years since April 2010. Older adults aged 65 and over suffered the biggest reduction, 12% in real terms.
The NAO said the challenge was not confined to social care, however. Other areas of the system, such as the NHS and A&E, are also coming under increased pressure from the cuts. But it said ministers are uncertain on how these pressures will be absorbed.
It claimed that the rising needs and reduced funding equation was also placing 'unsustainable' pressure on informal carers and acute health services as well as the NHS.
Fewer people now qualify for care
The NAO said: 'Informal carers are doing more hours of care per week and are, on average, getting older.'
The study also showed that fewer people now qualify for care. This is attributed to service cuts, eligibility criteria alterations and possibly some people requiring less care due to earlier intervention.
The NAO said the reductions have come despite ministers' announcing their intention in 2010 that social care funding should be safeguarded.
The report went on: 'Delayed discharges into, and avoidable admissions from, social care settings place increased demand on acute services.'
It said that delayed discharges due to social care have fallen over the past three years, but are still a 'significant' problem for some hospital trusts.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said:
'This independent, authoritative report underlines the true scale of the crisis in care and reaches some potentially devastating conclusions, contrasting the uncertainty about how effective the Government's policies will be for improving the quality and reach of social care with the daily reality of rising demand and falling council funding.
'As a result, the NAO says neither central or local government can be sure the system will be able to cope. This situation represents a clear and real risk to all those older people who depend on good social care and it cannot be allowed to continue. Funding the care they need must be the priority.
'Ultimately the positive aspirations of the Care Bill will not be realised unless sufficient funding is in place.'
Copyright Press Association 2014