Author Archives: Andrew Harrop

Countdown to the Dilnot Report – Care in Crisis

Age UK’s new report ‘Care in Crisis: causes and solutions’ opens six weeks of intense debate as we run-up to the publication of the Dilnot Report on the funding of care and support. The main purpose of our paper is to explain how and why older people’s care has reached financial breaking point. By re-analysing existing data from official and academic sources we have assembled a devastating critique of the care system for older people as it stands today.

High and rising levels of unmet need are the first signs that the system is failing. Already, out of 2 million older people in England with care-related needs, 800,000 receive no formal support from public or private sector agencies. As a result of spending cuts, combined with rising need, the figure is likely to pass one million between 2012 and 2014. Continue reading

Impacts of ageing for developed economies

In my second blog on the Ditchley Foundation conference on the implications of ageing in developed economies I’ve digested the discussion on the consequences of ageing. (Read the first post here)

Healthcare

It was striking that the conversation was dominated by healthcare. We distinguished between ‘true’ age-related healthcare costs, associated with chronic conditions and long term care, as opposed to the costs of the last year of life, which arise whenever someone dies and may actually be higher for early death (when people are more likely to benefit from costly interventions).

There was agreement that ageing is not the main driver of health costs, with improving technology and rising expectations considerably more important.

Participants questioned whether US health spending was an unusual outlier, or the inevitable trajectory for other advanced economies. While American delegates tended to be fatalistic about health costs, participants from other countries pointed to their success in checking rising costs and maintaining health spending at a lower share of GDP (usually with better health outcomes, since healthcare only has a small impact on a society’s health). Continue reading

Trends in ageing for developed economies

I recently spent three days at a conference on ageing in developed economies, hosted by the Ditchley Foundation at their splendid Oxfordshire pile. I was one of the rapporteurs for the event and asked to focus on the causes and impacts of population ageing.

Undaunted by the breadth of this exam question participants from Sweden, the UK, Canada, the US, Japan and the Netherlands pooled their evidence and insight to considerable effect. In this first blog, I précis our discussions on causes and trends (NB the whole conference was under the Chatham House rule).

Image from enabledbydesign via Creative Commons

Fertility – There was surprisingly little discussion of the impact of the post-1945 baby boomers (perhaps experts now take them for granted, or see them as only transitory phenomenon). By contrast there was intense debate on the subsequent slump in fertility observed since the 1960s across the developed world.

Fertility rates vary widely, with the USA and Scandinavia remaining fairly fertile, while Southern Europe and East Asia have seen fertility fall far below population replacement requirements. The latter will lead to population decline and for coming decades skew the age profile of the population upwards, for as long as older, more fertile generations remain alive.

Interestingly the UK, Germany and France seem to have had some success in improving fertility in recent years. There was scepticism about the effectiveness of deliberate pro-birth incentives but agreement that flexible work and supported childcare is very important (migrant mothers play a moderate role too).

However I was surprised to hear that the strongest determinant of variations in developed world fertility rates are our different attitudes to birth outside marriage. This lesson implies that conservative cultures may find it very difficult to increase fertility (it also adds a new dimension to the UK debate on using public policy to support marriage). Continue reading

Age UK Budget reaction

Some weeks ago Age UK submitted evidence to the Treasury ahead of the Budget, outlining our key Budget priorities for later life. While we’ve had some good news today, the Chancellor’s response – or silence – in other areas left our ‘wish list’ largely unfulfilled.

The highlight today for Age UK was the hint that the Government will introduce a simple flat-rate state pension of around £140 a week. This will be great news for those who receive it – we’ve been calling for a simpler, better single State Pension for many years. But as always, the devil is in the detail. We didn’t hear today when this pension is going to be implemented, and we know from the Chancellor’s statement that it won’t apply to those currently in receipt of State Pension. With 1.8 million older people living in poverty in the UK today, we believe that more needs to be done to tackle pensioner poverty now.

Future increases to the State Pension Age past 66 will now to be determined by an automatic process, according to today’s Budget statement. While we accept that the State Pension Age will have to increase periodically to take account of welcome increases in life expectancy, simplistic indexation is not the answer. In particular, it’s essential that any increase isn’t based solely on average life expectancy, as health inequalities mean that life expectancy varies wildly across the UK. Any new uprating must also take into account the impact changes will have on the poorest, those out of work and those with health problems or disabilities.

After spending years campaigning for an end to age discrimination, it was disheartening today to see the postponement of new age equality provisions for small businesses. We’ve been promised that this will not include the ending of the Default Retirement Age, which will begin to be phased out from April, but it will water down the banning of age discrimination in the provision of goods and services. Age equality makes economic sense, and older consumers’ spending will be key in reducing the deficit, so we would have liked to see more Government support to help small businesses adapt to the changes, rather than abandoning them.

Finally, there were areas where the Budget said nothing, where action was urgently needed. We already know that adult social care is going to be badly hit from April, as we hear news of local government cuts. We asked the Chancellor to channel any extra money he could find to top up support for care users who are among the most dependent in society. Yet while there was a little extra for other favoured projects – money for councils to fill potholes among them – there was nothing to see off the looming crisis in care.

- Read more coverage of the Budget on the main Age UK site