At the end of last month, Age UK launched our ‘Care in Crisis’ report, outlining the current parlous state of our social care system and how we believe it needs to be reformed. Today we’re publishing new figures that show what we had feared – that the likely cuts in older people’s social care could hasten the collapse of the already-crumbling system.
We made a Freedom of Information request to each of the 152 English councils with responsibility for adult social services to find out about what they were planning to spend on social care for this financial year (2011/12). Combining the responses we received from 139 of these councils with the estimated addition of the NHS contribution of local authorities, we found that net expenditure on older people’s social care this year is falling by £610 million, or 8.4%. The average annual spend per individual older person who needs care is being slashed from £2,548 in 2010/11 to £2,335 in 2011/12.
With social care spending being squeezed, we asked where local authorities are making these savings. Our research found that 61 councils are increasing or introducing new charges for service users on provision such as home help or daycare services. 27 councils are reducing personal budgets or domiciliary care packages, so that service users will be able to afford less support. 25 councils are reducing the number of placements available in care homes, while 76 councils have either frozen or decreased the rates they pay for residential homes for older people, leaving service users and their families to make up the shortfall.
These new figures further make the case that our care system is in dire need of reform. The Dilnot Commission will be reporting on Monday 4 July and will be making recommendations around how older people, their families, local authorities and Government pay for care in the future. Age UK is calling for the Government to commit to spending at least £3 billion on social care, which we believe is essential to ensure that care is provided for vulnerable older people. The Government have said that they will invest a further £7.2bn in care over the next four years. However, we are not reassured. We know that there was an attempt to protect social care services from cuts by providing this extra money but it has little effect against the back-drop of cuts to council budgets as a whole. Our figures show that services have not been protected, despite the extra investment.
The Government has a statutory duty to provide care for those in need under various pieces of legislation, which we hope will be reformed and clarified as per the Law Commission’s recent proposals. But more than that, there is a moral duty to provide good-quality care to people that need it in a way that is affordable, accessible and protects the dignity of the individual. We will continue to work with politicians and policy-makers to ensure that a new care system produces better outcomes for older people.