How far have we come on pensioner poverty?

With the first decade of this millennium having now passed us by, it is a good opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved during this period. Ending pensioner poverty was a central goal for both Age Concern and Help the Aged, and continues to be so for Age UK. So, how far have we come in achieving this, and where do poorer older people stand now in 2011?

In 1997, there were 2.9 million pensioners living in poverty, after housing costs. This number decreased in the first part on the decade, but has since stalled at around 1.8 million and even rose to 2.1 million in 2007. However, when this is looked at before housing costs are taken into account, the number of poor pensioners is 2.3  million – not a lot lower than when Labour came to power. Continue reading “How far have we come on pensioner poverty?”

Council funding cuts could make ‘bed-blocking’ worse

This article was originally posted on Left Foot Forward.

This week, the Guardian reported doctors warning that thousands of hospital patients in later life are being made to stay in hospital for longer than they need to, because of inadequate provision of residential care or care at home. In this survey of 502 doctors, 50 per cent reported that the ‘bed blocking’ situation was worse than a year ago. With significant cuts to council funding, it’s feared that next year’s results won’t be any better.

At Age UK, we’re saddened, but not surprised, by the figures collated by the Guardian and Doctors.net.uk. We’ve been consistently arguing that one of the many unpleasant outcomes of failing to invest in good-quality social care for older people, both at home and in residential care settings, is that people end up staying in hospital unnecessarily. Our ‘Don’t cut care’ campaign is calling on local councils up and down the country to use the additional funds allocated to maintain their care budgets and ensure that older people are able to access the care services they need. Continue reading “Council funding cuts could make ‘bed-blocking’ worse”

Making the Energy Bill work for the fuel-poor

Energy is top of the news bulletins at the moment with cold weather leading to supply difficulties for people who don’t have access to mains gas and electricity supplies. The Government’s immediate response has been heavily scrutinised but their longer-term strategy for energy use should perhaps receive more attention than it has. The Energy Bill, published in the House of Lords in mid-December, lays out the Government’s approach for the future.

The Energy Bill, which will give effect to the Green Deal, signals a welcome step change in the government’s approach to improvement of housing stock, much of which is characterised by inadequate insulation and inefficient heating systems. A concerted programme of home improvement work is essential if we are to improve energy efficiency in homes and reduce our use of fuel. The Green Deal will include a financial plan that lets householders pay for energy saving measures in instalments through their energy bills. Continue reading “Making the Energy Bill work for the fuel-poor”

What is our society’s vision for social care?

This article was originally posted at Left Foot Forward.

Social care is currently in crisis due to lack of funding. The number of older people needing care is growing but rationing through eligibility criteria means fewer and fewer are qualifying for local authority support. There are few services aimed at preventing those with low-level care needs from reaching a crisis situation. The £2bn “additional funding” announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review barely covers the CSR-created hole in local authority care spending and so we predict a small overall drop in funding over the next four years, threatening to turn this problem into a disaster. Reform to the care system is urgent.

The recent announcement A Vision for Adult Social Care: Capable Communities and Active Citizens, forms a part of the Government’s longer-term plans for reforming social care in England. As such, it builds on Coalition Agreement commitments , and provides a steer to the two major reviews currently in progress, these being the Law Commission review of adult social care law and the Dilnot Commission on the long term funding of social care. Following these reviews the Government plans to publish a white paper late in 2011 leading to an adult social care reform bill in 2012. Continue reading “What is our society’s vision for social care?”

New report on experiences of later life

On Tuesday, I joined panellists Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP and Sara McKee, Chair of CSJ Working Group on Older Age to welcome the new report from the Centre for Social Justice.  This interim review as part of their ‘Older Age’ project looks at how loneliness, isolation and social breakdown have fuelled poverty in later life for millions of people. I was particularly pleased with the emphasis this report has on the more positive aspects of ageing. As a society, we need to challenge perceptions and celebrate the good things about growing older.  Continue reading “New report on experiences of later life”

NHS Reform: Challenge and opportunity

BBC Four’s new sitcom, Getting On, takes a bleakly comic look at life on an NHS geriatric ward. But a new report this week shows that NHS hospital treatment of many older people is no laughing matter.

The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) launched its new report this week; ‘An Age Old Problem’. Its findings were disturbing, demonstrating that the NHS at present is just not equipped to deal with an ageing population. The report looked at the care given to 820 people aged over 80 from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, all of whom died within 30 days of having surgery. It highlighted that pain management, malnutrition and delays in receiving care were all common problems. Only 38% of the patients analysed received care that could be classed as ‘good’.  Continue reading “NHS Reform: Challenge and opportunity”