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30 January 2012
Age UK's new report highlights a £500m funding gap in adult social care.
The adult social care system is in crisis and is further crumbling under the weight of public sector cuts, despite the government's intention to protect frontline services. Age UK's new 'Care in Crisis' 2012 report shows that this year, spending on older people's social care in England is £500m short of even maintaining the inadequate levels of provision in place when the coalition government came to power. This reduction in spending cannot solely be met through efficiency savings. A recent survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) found that 23 per cent of efficiency savings would be made through service reductions.
To even sustain the care system at the same levels of service as in 2010, before the current spending cuts, our analysis shows that the government would have to spend £7.8bn this year. We project that by 2012-13 the government would need to spend £1bn more than this year to stop the situation getting any worse.
The impact of this widening funding gap has led to a reduction in service provision, increasing charges levied by councils for their services, and fewer older people receiving the support they need. The total hours of care support that local authorities purchased for older people fell from £2m to £1.85m in 2009-10. Every older person using local authority care services is now being charged £150 per year more in real terms in 2010-2011 than in 2009-2010, and £360 more than 2008-2009.
Historically there has been chronic under-funding of social care services; spending has stagnated and then decreased. Yet the ageing population continues to grow: since 2004 the number of people aged over 85, who are most likely to need care and support, has increased by over 250,000.
The human cost of this failure, to provide care and support that will enable people to live with dignity, can be understood through the experience of people like David Gower. David has severe mobility problems and relies on carers four times a day. The reality of social care for him is cutbacks to his home care service, which has led to a reduction in time with his carers and a big increase in the charges he pays for care. David and many others like him are a hidden story of older people struggling to cope without the support they need.
We hope the government will stick to its commitment to publish a social care white paper in April, and urge all parties to engage in cross-party talks to reach a settlement to establish a sustainable legal and financial framework for social care. The time for reform is now.
"This is yet another report that proves there is a significant shortfall in social care funding for England. We see councils raising eligibility thresholds and cutting fees that they are prepared to pay which is simply not sustainable. The government must listen when everyone says there is a funding crisis now."