First published online at Daily Mail: Rightminds
Today’s report Care in Crisis by Age UK will provoke another battle in the war of numbers that epitomises the quagmire in which we are trapped when it comes to trying to have an honest discussion and take decisions on the social care needs of the elderly.
Whilst this report states that funding for older people’s social care has been cut by £331 million in the past year, last week’s Health Select Committee report on Public Expenditure gave the figure of £200 million in cuts (Department of Communities and Local Government figures) whilst the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Local Government Association figures in the same report claimed £991 million less was being spent. Who do you believe?
Maybe it doesn’t matter, because the overall message is the same – less money is being spent on elderly social care at a time when demand is rising every day. Wanless in his second report of nearly a decade ago projected that between 2005 and 2025 there would be an increase in demand for elderly care of 54%, so this crisis comes as no surprise. With the Dilnot Commission Report of 2011 still waiting for a response, the disappointments are mounting.
As the demand for help grows, the criteria with which people are assessed for help gets tighter. Care in Crisis claims that about 80% of councils don’t give any help unless you have been assessed as having ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs. An example of a need that would not be met is if you were simply unable to carry out several personal care or domestic routines – you have to be unable to carry out the majority of your personal care to qualify for help.
Elderly people are being left to live in fear while political indecision reigns and councils tighten up provision criteria that leaves old people to fend for themselves. We need three things to happen immediately to end this uncertainty. The government need to publish the Funding of Social Care White Paper that we have been promised so councils, insurers and families can begin to work with definite plans. Secondly, councils need to look for opportunities to combine health and social care provision around particular groups.
By focusing on specific needs they will be able to see where they can share costs with the health service through the use of telehealth and telecare technology, shared records (as has been achieved already for some people who are registered blind), shared administration and shared skills. And thirdly, it’s down to you and me. There is a challenge to us all: how are we treating and making time for our parents, grandparents and elderly neighbours?
My mother’s frailty gave me the opportunity to help care for her after her many years of caring for me and we shared many precious moments. But I met many elderly people in the course of my work who never saw their children or grandchildren and were left entirely at the mercy of the social services. Their isolation was heart-breaking.
Most of us feel quite angry about the neglect and anxiety we are seeing portrayed so frequently in the press. While we need to keep up the pressure on policy makers to publish their funding plans as soon as possible, we must not think that treating older people with dignity is just the preserve of the state.