This guest blog was contributed by Gordon Cameron, Policy and Research Officer, at the Family and Childcare Trust.
Our new Older People’s Care Survey has found that four in five councils report not having enough care in their area to meet demand. That means over 6.4 million older people live in these places with insufficient provision.
Older people’s care is important to all of us. Good quality care supports older people to enjoy old age with comfort and dignity. When it is not available or not affordable it causes entirely avoidable suffering, creates stress and worry for families, and often forces people into an impossible balancing act to look after a loved one alongside other responsibilities.
The Family and Childcare Trust has over 40 years of experience in research into family life. While our focus has been childcare and families with children, we know that increasing numbers of parents and grandparents are managing or providing care for an older person, while also looking after young children.
To understand more about the issues faced by older people and their families, we sent surveys to all UK local authorities, who are responsible for funding and arranging care, and managing the market in their area. The responses revealed a number of serious issues with the care system.
There are shortages in available care across the country, but families are more likely to struggle to find care in certain areas. While 57 per cent of councils report having enough care in the North East, in Outer London that figure falls to just 7 per cent.
People with the highest needs face the worst shortages. Though 84 per cent of respondents in the UK said they had enough availability for a standard care home place, just 32 percent had enough nursing care places with specialist dementia support. When people with high needs struggle to find suitable care often an inappropriate NHS ward will be the only option.
Less than half of councils have enough home care provision. These services are often highly valued as they allow people to remain living independently in their own homes and communities. As they can often prevent or delay the need for more expensive care, failure to ensure adequate provision of home care is both economically and morally flawed.
These are just a few of the issues raised by the report, which are likely to resonate with many people familiar with the care system. Older people and their families face an ongoing struggle to get a decent choice of care at a price they can afford. Their choices are often made harder due to a lack of information about the care that is available in their area and what they can expect to pay.
The system is not sustainable, and government must act to reform it now. The Family and Childcare Trust calls on the Government to make sure there is enough care available for every older person that needs it. The first step in doing this is for government to understand where there are gaps in supply by building on this research and regularly monitoring whether there is enough care available for older people across the UK.
To read more about the findings and recommendations made by the Family and Childcare Trust, download the Older People’s Care Survey here.