Adult social care outlook 'bleak', warns think tank

A woman holding hands with a carer (posed by model) Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Caroline Abrahams of Age UK says we are "effectively dismantling our system of social care".

The future for adult social care services in England "looks bleak", a think tank has warned.

Chancellor George Osborne announced measures in his Spending Review that would lead to a rise in care budgets.

But the International Longevity Centre said that would only "paper over the cracks" and suggested 1.8 million people had unmet needs for care.

A government spokesman said authorities now have access to an extra £3.5bn to provide care for vulnerable people.

In last month's spending review, Mr Osborne said he was protecting social care budgets by allowing local authorities to raise council tax by 2% and increasing the amount of money available for the Better Care Fund, a joint pot of money used by councils and the NHS to support care services.

The report by ILC-UK said data from 326 councils indicated that the areas with the highest concentrations of elderly people would be the least able to raise extra funds.

It said the number of over-80s had risen by 800,000 in the last decade.

The care system

Image copyright Thinkstock
  • Unlike the NHS, social care provided in an individual's home or in residential care is not free - only the poorest get help
  • The number of older and disabled people receiving council help fell by 28% between 2009-10 and 2013-14
  • Councils spent just under £14bn last year on services
  • An estimated 1.5 million older people with care needs rely on family and friends for help
  • One in 10 older people faces bills in excess of £100,000 over their lifetime for care

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The report said that 1.86 million people over the age of 50 in England had unmet care needs in 2012/13, a rise of 7% since 2006/07.

Ben Franklin, ILC-UK's head of economics of an ageing society, said: "The future for adult social care looks bleak.

"The social care settlement will be insufficient to meet the growing care needs of an ageing population and does little more than paper over the cracks which many of those who are in need of care are already falling through.

"While some will be able to rely on family to support their needs, increased prevalence of unpaid caring may have adverse consequences for those providing support, for the economy as a whole due to reduced employment, and without additional investment may even lead to an erosion in the quality of care provided."

'Wake-up call'

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's charity director, said the report reinforced a consensus of experts that government measures would not halt a decline in social care.

She said is was a "wake-up call for the public", particularly women.

"Over the last 20 years, the need to provide a system of childcare has been first recognised and then at least partially met, in order to enable more women to work and support decent family incomes," she said.

"Now many of those same women, or sometimes their mothers, could find they have to leave work to care for their own ageing parents, because we are effectively dismantling our system of social care."

However, a government spokesman said the "increased and improved" Better Care Fund - which provides financial support for councils and NHS organisations - will support councils with the greatest demand for social care services.

"We will continue to work with the care sector to help it to provide quality care for older and vulnerable people," the spokesman added.

It comes as council chiefs, NHS managers and care bosses wrote to the chancellor earlier this month saying that vital care services remained at risk.

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