500k older people at risk if budget hits social care
Published on 23 March 2010 12:00 AM
Half a million frail older people in England will be left without state-supported care services if older people's care is not protected from government-wide spending cuts in tomorrow's Budget‚ according to new research for Age Concern and Help the Aged.1
The new research‚ undertaken by the London School of Economics (LSE) and the University of Kent‚ reveals that a funding gap of £1.75 billion could open up within just two years2. Ahead of the Budget‚ the charity is calling on the Chancellor to urgently address the short-term financial threat to the care system by guaranteeing that spending on care will not be cut from next April.
The charity is proposing that money ring-fenced for the NHS should be shared with older people's social care services. Reducing the NHS budget by just 0.2% annually for the next five years would bolster local social care budgets by £1 billion‚ according to the charity. And even a real-terms increase for older people's care to meet rising demand could be paid for by an annual cut in NHS spending of 0.6% 3.
The LSE and University of Kent research modelled the impact on older people's care services of expected government-wide spending cuts as predicted by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (6.7% per year in the two years from April 2011)4. It projects that around 300‚000 of the 490‚000 people losing entitlement to state-funded care would be able to pay for some help privately‚ but around 180‚000 people with care needs would go without any support at all 5 - an increase of 23% from today. These cuts would mainly hit people living in their own homes‚ not the highest need people supported in care homes‚ with councils able to help less than half as many people living at home as they would if today's eligibility criteria were maintained.
Commenting ahead of the Budget‚ Age Concern and Help the Aged's Charity Director‚ Michelle Mitchell‚ said:
"Our care system was in crisis long before the recession and any spending cuts could be catastrophic. If these cuts go ahead‚ half a million people will be left without state support and the lives of many thousands of frail‚ vulnerable people will be put at risk.
"We recognise the need for spending constraint in this Budget‚ but the axe must not fall on the services that older people rely on most. Transferring resources from the NHS to older people's care would be a tough decision to make‚ but one that could ultimately save money as well as the lives of many older people.
"Despite the recent focus on social care‚ we are still waiting for the political parties to set out credible proposals for comprehensive reform of the system. We urge them all to set out their plans in full ahead of the election in order to give voters a clear choice. In the meantime it is absolutely vital that the government uses this Budget to safeguard the immediate future of care."
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Notes to Editors
- ‘The impact of a tightening fiscal situation on social care for older people'‚ Professor Julien Forder and Dr Jose-Luis Fernandez‚ published March 2010.
- The Institute for Fiscal Studies' projections for cuts to unprotected departmental spending woul equate to a reduction of £900 million over two years if applied to older people's social care; over the same time period the London School of Economics projects an extra £800 million is needed by 2012/13 over today's spending (because the rising numbers of frail older people means that spending would need to grow year-on-year to maintain existing eligibility for services).
- ‘Agenda for Later Life 2010'‚ Age UK‚ published March 2010.
- The London School of Economics and University of Kent analysis uses the Personal Social Services Research Unit's older people's social care model to make projections of future care spending and need. The modelling assumes that the spending cuts are delivered exclusively by restricting eligibility for services‚ rather than‚ for example‚ by increasing means-tested charges.
- These figures have been rounded and do not sum to the total.
Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged. We will be known by our new name from April 2010. The Age UK family includes Age Scotland‚ Age Cymru and Age NI.