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30 May 2012
The cost of care for the country's rapidly ageing population is set to almost double in a generation unless government urgently introduces reform, local government leaders have warned today (Wednesday, 30 May).
New analysis by the Local Government Association shows taxpayers would have to pay an additional £12 billion every year to fund care for the elderly by 2030. Currently the annual bill to taxpayers is £14.5 billion, but the new figures show that this will increase by 84 per cent to £26.7 billion in less than 20 years.
This would see an average additional annual bill of £79 million for every council responsible for providing adult services or a further £230 for every man, women and child in the country.
In addition, more than a quarter of a million people could be left having to pay for their care costs - which can run into tens of thousands of pounds annually - without any support from the state. This is an increase of 106 per cent, from the current number of 128,000 to 264,000.
The figures have prompted fears that without government action councils will be left unable to provide anything except for care and waste services.
This could mean 'discretionary public services' such as public toilets, leisure centres and parks coming increasingly under threat as councils are forced to divert funding from other areas to plug the growing black hole in adult social care budgets.
Councils, which are facing a 28 per cent funding cut from government, already allocate more than 40 per cent of their budgets to fund care services for around 3 per cent of the population.
The growing financial care crisis is attributed to the combined pressures of a rapidly aging population, growing demand, escalating service costs and a £1 billion reduction in councils' social care budgets, which have been compounded by further recent government funding cuts.
It's projected that the country's rapidly aging population will exacerbate these pressures with the number of people over the age of 75 set to increase by 64 per cent, compared with a 16 per cent increase of the total population, by 2030.
Local government leaders are now warning that these trends, coupled with the impact of government cuts until at least 2017, are creating the 'perfect storm' for a crisis in how we care for the most vulnerable members of society. They fear that without urgent action we are fast approaching a point of no return where the problem will become too big to tackle.
Cllr David Rogers, Chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "Failure to take a lead on the reform of funding adults social care is unforgivably short sighted and threatens to affect the popular services we all take for granted. It's clear that central government can no longer duck the hard choices required to make elderly care affordable.
"Without urgent reform we are going to see the cost of providing care for the elderly soaking up every last penny of council budgets. In just a generation we are going to get to the point where councils are unable to provide any services at all that are not statutory, and offer little more than care services for the vulnerable.
"All too soon we are going to be faced with a funding crisis that we are no longer going to be able to tackle. The challenge of reforming adult social care is set to fall off a cliff edge and politicians need to act now or risk severely impacting on the services councils can provide for generations to come."
The LGA is now calling on government to urgent clarify if it will tackle all or some of the issues needed to address the funding crisis in adult social care.
This would involve adopting a solution which includes fair funding and gives individuals' peace of mind, such as those proposed by the Dilnot commission - as currently the only workable offer on the table. But considerable work would have to be done with councils to find ways to make this financially manageable.
The current cost of reforming adult social care by implementing the proposals of the Dilnot commission is estimated at £1.7 billion and this is set to grow the longer the question around reform remains unanswered.
The system also needs to be simpler and ensure a better quality of care through integrated health and social care commissioning with a single commissioner.
But alongside reform, government must also address the significant shortfall in funding.