Why are so many older people with a social care need being abandoned?

An older man looking out of the windowA few days ago Age UK published new research showing that nearly 900,000 older people aged 65-89 in England with a social care need are now going without any support.

This means that nearly a third of older people for whom an essential daily task like washing or dressing is difficult receive no formal help from care workers or informal help from family or friends.

As a result they are being left to struggle alone, with significant risks to their health and their independence. I think that’s shameful in a 21st century advanced country like ours.

And worryingly, things are getting worse not better: an analysis in 2010 of older people’s unmet social care needs found that 800,000 were missing out.

In addition, our research could only go up to age 89 because the data we were using stopped there, so you have to wonder how many people in their 90s and beyond are now without help.

Why is this happening? Really the explanation is quite simple: because over the last 20 years the amount we have been investing nationally in social care first stood still and then fell – this at the same time as the demand for social care has been steadily growing because we are living longer.

The biggest users of social care are the over-85s and they are the fastest growing group in our population.

There are some good ideas being discussed by politicians at the moment that could improve life for older people; for example, integrating health and social care, and supporting more community projects to help alleviate loneliness.

But these approaches won’t in and of themselves resolve the crisis in social care, only more money will do that. That’s why filling the social care funding gap remains Age UK’s top policy priority.

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