Skip to content
Please donate

3 million hours of home care lost due to council cuts

By: Age UK
Published on 31 May 2018 11:00 PM

Older people and families paying the price, says Age UK, with ‘care deserts’ now apparent in some localities

“Included in our new report are real-life stories from older people like ‘Brian’, who had a care assessment by social services three months ago but hasn’t heard anything since, and is sleeping on the sofa in his living room because he can no longer manage the stairs. Brian says he feels suicidal and it’s no surprise.”

A new report from Age UK, ‘ Behind the Headlines – the battle to get care at home’ illustrates the misery being experienced by many older people and their families, as they try to get the care at home they need.

Too often, they find themselves trapped in a nightmare of bureaucracy and kept at arm’s length by local authorities struggling to meet growing demands for care with deeply inadequate resources, a situation made much worse by years of budget cuts.

This new report by Age UK shows that the provision of homecare services has fallen by a massive 3 million hours since 2015.[i] The Charity says that this damning figure highlights the crisis facing many older people who are in declining health and in need of home care services. They say it is essential that the Government acts now to prop up the current system with substantial added investment, as well as bringing forward proposals for placing care on a sustainable financial footing for the future as it has promised to do later this year, in the form of a Green Paper (consultation document).

The average spend per adult on social care fell 13 per cent, from £439 to £379, between 2009/10 and 2016/17.[ii] It is not surprising that over the same period around 400,000 fewer older people received social care, as eligibility criteria were tightened by councils desperately trying to ‘square an impossible circle’ of rising demand and falling funds. The consequences for older people are increasingly severe, says the Charity.

A number of real-life stories from older people and their families who called the Age UK helpline are included in the report and illustrate how difficult it can now be for older people to assert their legal rights and access the home care they desperately require to live independently at home, even when they are clearly profoundly unwell and even at risk.

The same issues were heard time and again, from callers across the country, and are set out in the report:

• Long waits to get an assessment – the entry point to the care system
• Care services that are disjointed or simply unresponsive
• Social services declining to get involved
• Fundamental lack of capacity in the system
• Poor quality services and support
• Support and services being cut back, even though people’s needs have stayed the same or even increased.
• Vital help for families providing care being cut back.

Too often, local authorities were unable to provide basic care and support to older people in need of it, in some instances because there literally wasn’t any available for them to purchase in their local area – the development of local ‘care deserts’ that has long been anticipated and feared as social care has declined. Without urgent action the Charity says this situation will only get worse.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said:

“Three million hours of home care have been lost in the last three years because of Central Government cuts and the lives of many older people have been sharply diminished as a result. Our new report shows the appalling human consequences as councils struggle to do the impossible: meet growing needs for home care with grossly inadequate resources.
“Included in our new report are real life stories from older people like ‘Brian’, who had a care assessment by social services three months ago but hasn’t heard anything since, and is sleeping on the sofa in his living room because he can no longer manage the stairs. Brian says he feels suicidal and it’s no surprise.

“This is a crisis for many families too, like ‘Sally’s’, left to care for her deeply unwell father in law because the local council says there is no home care available in her area for them to purchase on his behalf. At Age UK we have been worried for some time about the possible emergence of ‘care deserts’ – places where it is impossible to find any care at all – and now it seems our worst fears have been realised.

“When the care market is so obviously broken, for the sake of older people the Government must intervene. Commentators say that Ministers want to give the NHS a 70th birthday present in the form of an enhanced funding deal. Quite right too – the NHS is buckling – but it is essential that they respond to the social care crisis at the same time. This is not only the right thing to do from a moral perspective, it makes good economic sense too: good home care keeps older people fit and well in their own homes and is far cheaper than a spell in hospital or a care home – the typical alternatives.”

The stories below reflect just some of cases outlined in the report and are representative of the 250 calls received to our Information and Advice line, in relation to Top-Up fees. Names, gender and certain details and characteristics have been changed to preserve our callers’ confidentiality.

• Alice’s father in law, Andrew, has dementia and usually lives alone. He recently had a flood and his house is uninhabitable. He has gone to stay with Alice’s brother temporarily but he and his wife work so Andrew is home alone a lot of the time. Alice has called social services and has been told a referral has been made and that a social worker will get in touch - within 6 weeks.

• David has dementia and needs help with washing and dressing as well as eating and drinking. He currently goes to an activity centre but his wife is finding it hard to cope and thinks he needs more support at home as well. David’s wife has asked social services for a needs assessment but they have said this won’t happen for several months.

• Chris’s mother, Vera, lives with them and after a recent stay in hospital she received a social care needs assessment which concluded that she needed care visits in the morning and evening. However, social services have informed Chris that they are unable to locate a care agency to provide them at the moment as they are all at full capacity. Chris feels the support is required urgently.

• Sheelagh’s brother, Jake, is in hospital at the moment. He gets very confused, wanders and has got hurt in the past as a result. He has also had a stroke. Social workers have told Sheelagh they can’t get carers who can meet his needs.

• James is severely disabled and bed bound, and he has recently been in hospital following an infection. He should have four care visits a day but has called in distress as no one has turned up yet today. He has repeatedly tried to phone social services this morning but the line is constantly engaged. He doesn’t know who else to ring.

• Jane’s mother in law, Grace, lives with her and her husband Ian. Grace is disabled and needs a lot of support. Providing such high levels of care is very stressful for the family and Jane has become very distressed. Jane asked social services for some respite care so that they can have a break and take a family holiday – previously she had been promised that respite care would be available, free of charge. However, since then their social worker has tried to persuade Jane to give up the family holiday and ensure either Ian or one of their children stays at home to care for Grace. Furthermore, the social worker has said respite will not be free of charge and in any event will need to be approved by a panel.

Notes to Editors:

[i] LaingBuisson Homecare and Supported Living Report, April 2018
[ii] Lord Darzi Review of Health and Social Care Interim Report, April 2018

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.

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 six 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 support older people in more than 40 of the world’s poorest countries through our subsidiary charity Age International and as a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

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).

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 during office hours (Mon-Fri 08:30-17:30) or for out-of-hours media support please email 

See media contacts

Share this page

Last updated: Feb 18 2022

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top