Forget about 'social care pot of gold'

Old person's hands Ministers have promised to publish plans to reform social care later this year

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There will be no "pot of gold" to answer the prayers of councils struggling to look after the elderly, according to social care chiefs.

Ministers have promised to reform the system amid signs local authorities are struggling to keep pace with demand.

But Sarah Pickup, the new president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said changes in England would still be years away.

Instead, she urged councils to look at new ways of providing services.

In an interview with the BBC, she said the key was to end the traditional assumption that long-term social care support was inevitable as people aged.

Mrs Pickup cited the success her council, Hertfordshire, had had in helping to avoid that spiral of decline by offering intensive, short-term support following problems such as broken hips and stroke.

The county has been running an enablement service for the past few years which offers the elderly six-week stints of rehabilitation.

The help provided by the team, which can provide access to everything from physiotherapy and telecare to befriending services, means half of its clients avoid the need for any long-term support.

She said there were plenty of other good examples across the country of similar schemes.

'No wand waving'

And she added that one consequence of the reforms of the NHS was that GPs would be working much more closely with councils, opening up the potential for plenty of good partnership work.

She acknowledged that such opportunities were not the "solution to the problem in its entirety" as the system was still under funded and in need of reform.

How Herts curbed demand for care

Offering rehabilitation to the most frail elderly people is nothing new. Many places offer some kind of help to those leaving hospital.

But it is the scale of the operation in Hertfordshire, which is provided free to all, that is really making the difference.

About 80% of older people who are discharged from hospital or referred to social services in the community are directed to the enablement service run by Goldsborough Home Care.

It offers patients six weeks of intensive support, giving them access to physiotherapists, dietitians, occupational therapists, telecare services and nursing teams.

But it is also about the day-to-day emotional support the team provide, allowing patients to rebuild their confidence and go on to live independent lives.

The results have been impressive. About half of the people who go through the programme do not then need on-going support form social care. Another fifth need less than they would have done.

But she added: "It does mean that we shouldn't just sit around waiting for someone to wave a wand.

"No-one is going to wave a wand. Even if there is additional funding it is not going to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

And she warned any reform of the system was still a "way off", pointing out any new funding arrangements would have to wait until the next Spending Review period which is three years away.

Her comments come as campaigners have been upping the pressure on government.

This week Age UK and the British Geriatrics Society released a joint briefing paper warning that the elderly were being "catastrophically let down".

The two groups pointed out that councils had been increasingly cutting back on the services they provide so that there were now an estimated 800,000 people with care needs who were not getting any support.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK, added: "Age UK and the British Geriatrics Society are seeing a generation of very vulnerable people whose health is suffering because they are not getting enough care at home."

The Department of Health said it was looking to publish plans later this year that would improve the way care was provided and paid for.

At the moment social care is means tested so that only the poorest get it for free, meaning some people with the greatest needs face losing their homes to pay for support.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Steady guys & gals, old people are placing an unsustainable burden on the environment it is true but we do our cause no good by frightening the sheeple.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Re I Predict a Riot

    I just wish we could choose when we want to die. I've had social care for many years as a disabled person. I've also had a great life & while healthy at the moment, I want to choose when to die. So euthanasia on request please & before I need more care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Those contributors who wish to refuse medical treatment when they get ill are welcome to do so - but for the rest of us, we have possibly the single greatest issue of our decade to resolve. The Dilnot Commission has proposed a compassionate, humane and workable solution - expensive, yes, but possible - and it is up to all of us to encourage our politicians to adopt it. I, for one, will pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    BBC BIG JOKE where the story & pictures of the Protesters block Trafalgar Square in demo against disability allowance cuts today

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    26 They have been doing that already for decades, look where it's got us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    The earth is sick, she is suffering under an onslaught from the plague species that is humanity, we must reduce our numbers urgently before the environment & the climate are destroyed. The earth cannot sustain the demands placed upon her by an unnaturally maintained extra generation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    If we stopped paying for all the non-British people who have come here just to take advantage of our benefits system and health tourism, I'm sure we would have enough resources to look after our own.

    NuLabour through open the doors to rub our noses in diversity and the EU forces us to pay benefits to EU citizens here.

    All must stop - right now!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    I think it's tragic that people are losing everything whilst the Government and politicians dither about introducing a cap. I don't care if the cap is 30k or 60k, just _please_ please introduce one.

    I can't believe people were worried about old people losing 84 pound a year in the budget when a lot of old people are set to lose their home, their savings, their possessions, everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    How can you justify corporation tax cuts, Rich peoples tax cuts when the old and the vulnerable are languishing in poverty and squalor

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    As others have hinted we are going to have to look seriously at euthanasia, it is the only environmentally sustainable way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Do the people in Government and local councils forget that they too will become old and unable to care for themselves? Remember the old Chinese story about the child who made a feeding trough for his parents - all will need care in due course, even those who are fit, well and young now - and that says nothing about the chronically sick and ill. Maybe they think they are exempt from that too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    In Staffordshire CC Cllr Matthew Ellis refuses to say which services will be cut to fund the community based Social Care projects he is proposing. The funding will be taken from the NHS and Social Care budgets and given to private companies rather than the state sector to deliver cut down services. This massive Con trick will go on all over the UK, but is starting in Staffordshire

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    WendyRainbow, here's sincerely hoping that your children don't get leukaemia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I should like to amend what I wrote at post #2.
    I have subsequently discovered I was misinformed and the budget reduction for my local health and social care trust is not being reduced by circa 40% over 2 years, it is required to reduce by closer to 25%.
    I do know that what this means is trust management are looking at shedding 1 in 4 of their 'hands on' staff.
    They cannot meet demand now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    The UK government takes more than ever from the nation's GDP to pay for itself yet fails everywhere, on health, defence, infrastructure, economy and education. All their departments trying to pass the cost to some other department. Just wait until you show up at the Doctors as you are a threat to 'their' budget and scuppering their chance of a bonus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    @WendyRainbow. "Letting disease run its course" (i.e. letting people die) is not as simple as it seems. Someone with dementia may last for years, but be unable to wash or feed themselves. Do you think they should be left to starve to death? Or should they be looked after 24/7 for years? What diseases would you cure? At what age?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Never mind the financial cost, what about the environmental cost, what for example is the carbon footprint of increased life expectancy? How much rainforest must be cleared to feed the retired? We should be in harmony with the earth & let disease run its course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Once you retire you become a drain on society,unless you are one of the rich, and government will always look for ways of saving money on care for the elderly as they consider it a waste, they ,conveniently forget that for years we contributed to the country in every way possible.When we need help its always down to cost, but money's there if they want to fight a war in some other country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Once upon a time, nature took care of ensuring that once a person became non-productive, they didn't survive long.

    Man has slowly changed the rules, with better medical knowledge and welfare provision, and the potential here is still improving.

    This means that the limitation is no longer nature but resources (i.e. money). It cannot be any other way for society to survive.


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