Volunteers must care for elderly in 'neglectful' UK, minister says

A woman helps and elderly man Mr Lamb said his call for a greater role for volunteers was not a "cost-cutting option"

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Britain's "neglectful society" will need help from volunteers to cope with the rising number of elderly people, a government minister has said.

Care minister Norman Lamb told the Financial Times modern families and the state were unable to meet demand.

He said the "the dispersal of the extended family" had left many older Britons lonely and said the state could not address the problem "on its own".

He said there was an "overwhelming case" for volunteers to fill the gap.

The Liberal Democrat said the issue of isolation was more urgent than crime in some areas and suggested "a 21st century version of Neighbourhood Watch" to tackle it.

"On our very streets we have people who live on their own, who don't see anyone and whose relatives might visit once a month or whatever, but what's life like in between?" he said.

'Existential challenge'

Mr Lamb compared Britain to Spain, where he said elderly people were looked after by their families, and said Britain had "inadvertently become quite a neglectful society".

He said many families live long distances apart, often because people move to study or for jobs.

Mr Lamb said his call for a greater role for volunteers was not a "cost-cutting option" - but he said the ageing population was "an existential challenge to the system".

He said people who "care about sustaining the NHS" should realise it was necessary to "think more creatively than we've done in the past".

The NHS's budget has been protected from cuts under the coalition government, but it is only rising at the rate of inflation - and population growth and the rising number of older people is increasing pressure on its services.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures suggest the proportion of UK people aged 65 and over increased from 15% in 1985 to 17% in 2012 - an increase of 1.7 million people - and is projected to reach 23% by 2035.

Ageing population: UK median age

Median is age at which half the population is younger and half is older. Figures based on 2012 ONS estimates and projections













According to the Financial Times, a report to be published next week by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services will say local authorities have made significant cuts in their adult social care budgets since 2010.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    The problem is endemic in UK society. Carers are NOT supported, so why put yourself out? Aged parents with dementia or other medical conditions cannot be helped by relatives as this requires specialist help usually in a care home which eats into savings. Not selfish, realistic. Volunteers are NOT the answer as there's no help when things go wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    This is atrocious - they don't get it do they. They have created a society where no one can afford to look after aging family members. It takes 2 incomes per family to live now and anyone out of work is vilified, There ain't no one at home to look after anybody anymore! Now the Gov is saying they too can't afford it, despite the mountains of tax these poor people paid over their working lives?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Solutions not easy on this. Its a legacy of more people moving away from 'home' towns for work/relationships, also a society today where most neighbours do not engage with each other so older people left alone due to widowing or loss of partners in old age and have no-one to care for or about them. It will need a change in behaviours and attitudes of the UK populace to deal with this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    "an "overwhelming case" for volunteers to fill the gap".
    Yet another excuse for indolent & cruel families to dodge their duty. Volunteer as a friend BUT not to replace care.
    Those who support this last-gasp Coalition election 'initiative' are shamed
    Family who claim 'distance' are willing to go 'distance' on holiday & when it suits...& will themselves with longevity reap the whirlwind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Anyone who has ever tried to give 24 hour care at home to an old
    confused person knows that it is harder than outsiders can imagine and that all of your own life is taken over. I am not talking just about a social life, I mean having time for yourself to sleep or shower or even go to the loo. You become a joyless zombie. Care homes are a necessity, but must be CARING.


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