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Crisis in care for England’s frailest pensioners

Published on 08 February 2013 12:30 AM

Nearly 20,000 fewer older people receive home care compared to last year

New Government figures about the reduction in local authority funded home care services over the last year provide new details about the depth of the social care crisis for England's frailest pensioners.

Department of Health data show that two thirds of English councils reduced funding for older people's home care, resulting in a serious drop of nearly 20,000 fewer older people receiving local authority funded domiciliary care. This has coincided with a fall in the number of older people receiving Direct Payments[i] for social care, from 49,315 in 2010-11 to 42,049 in 2011-12.

The provisions being reduced will include vital support services such as help to get dressed, prepare food, or wash themselves which allow older people to carry on living in their own homes while receiving the support they need to live safely and with dignity.

Age UK analysis of the Government's[ii][iii] data on personal social services expenditure and unit costs shows:
- in 102 out of 152 English local authorities there was a fall in spending on older people's home care.
- This amounted to a gross total local government reduction in spending on older people's home care of £148 million between March 2011 and March 2012.
- There was a reduction in the number of older people who received local authority funded home care support - from  244,080  in 2010/11 to 224,745 in 2011/12 a drop of nearly 20,000 older people.

While social care services have reduced, over the last three years in England the 85 plus population, the demographic group most likely to need social care support, has risen by 57,600 people from 1,134,600 to 1,193,300.  However, over the last decade, social care funding firstly stagnated and then fell, despite increasing demand from an ageing population.[iv]

Age UK Charity Director General Michelle Mitchell said: 'These figures provide yet more evidence of the crisis in social care.  Without decent state funded home care it is likely that increasing numbers of spouses, themselves in poor health, are shouldering physically and emotionally strenuous care without essential support.

'For those without family and friends to help a lack of state support can mean surviving without the basics in life such as help with washing, dressing, eating and living in a way that retains dignity.  We fear such reductions in home care support may well result in 20,000 tragedies waiting to happen - unnecessary accidents and illnesses leading to avoidable hospital admissions and family carers cracking under the strain.

'Age UK is looking forward to a Government announcement on Dilnot in the next few weeks as the first step on a long road to social care funding reform. We also urge the Government to recognise that too many older people are failing to receive the help that they need. The Government must address the social care funding crisis as a matter of urgency.'

These figures are an insight into the bleak reality of the social care crisis where funding has completely failed to keep pace with demand.  Many local authorities are working hard to try and protect social care provision but are finding it an almost impossible challenge due to a toxic combination of chronic underfunding and rising demand.

In 2011/12 funding from central government to local authorities was cut by 12.1%.[v] Local authorities are increasingly restricting access to state funded home care.  In 2005 half of councils provided support to low income pensioners assessed as having moderate needs  By 2011, four fifths of councils restricted provision of care to those older people with substantial or critical needs. 

However, the vast majority of those older people assessed as having low or moderate needs, are now excluded from council funded home care, despite being disabled or frail.

At the same time as cuts to home care set in, the same data from the Department of Health show that older people are facing a drastic reduction in day care services too. Day care services are not a substitute for social care in the home but they are another form of support that older people often value and that can help, for example to mitigate loneliness and isolation or reduce pressures on carers. Since 2009, the number of older people in England whose day care services are provided for, or arranged by their local authority has fallen by 23 per cent from 88,498 in 2009/10 to 68,160 in 2011/12.[vi]


Notes to editors

[i] A direct payment is an agreed amount of council money that a person can use to arrange their own care and support following a needs assessment: Self-directed support  

[ii] National Health Service Information Centre (2012) - "Personal Social Services Expenditure and Unit Costs, England 2011-12 provisional release," - opens link in new window

[iii] National Health Service Information Centre (2012) - "Personal Social Services Expenditure and Unit Costs, England 2011-12 provisional release," - opens link in new window

[iv] The population increase between 2010/11 are estimates taken from ONS:  opens link in new window

[v] Social care eligibility bands 

  The eligibility criteria for accessing state funded home care  is graded into four bands, which describe the seriousness of the risk in independence and well-being or other consequences if needs are not addressed.
• The four bands are low, moderate, substantial and critical.
• In 2011-12, only 3 councils provide social care to people falling in to all eligibility criteria bands (low, moderate, substantial, critical).

[vi] National Health Service Information Centre (2012) - "Personal Social Services Expenditure and Unit Costs, England 2011-12 provisional release,"

opens link in new window IC NHS process document 

opens link in new window IC NHS Expenditure Report 2009

Media contact: Liz Fairweather
Telephone: 020 303 31718
Out of hours: 07071243243

Age UK
For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

About Age UK
Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over five million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we").  Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity). 

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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