Loneliness: As bad for you as 15 cigarettes a day

Today, Age UK launches a new campaign asking the Government to take action to tackle loneliness. Senior Campaigns Officer, Samantha Kennedy, explains why loneliness is a health problem for older people and how you can support the campaign.

Age UK Homepage No One Betty

No one should have no one, yet more than a million older people say they haven’t spoken to a friend, neighbour or family member for over a month. Continue reading “Loneliness: As bad for you as 15 cigarettes a day”

Guest blog – Universal Credit: a missed opportunity to help older workers

This blog was contributed by Giselle Cory, Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation.

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We know that many people want to work into older age – yet many do not. So what stops them? For some, caring for family or friends can make paid work near impossible.

For others, their own poor health can be a barrier. And for families on low incomes, it may be that work simply doesn’t pay enough to warrant continuing. This can lead to trouble for families who don’t have the savings they need to maintain decent living standards into retirement.

Universal Credit (UC) the government’s flagship welfare reform, could address some of these barriers. For example, under UC low income households will receive an income boost designed to make work pay.

This system could be powerful in ensuring older people have the incentives they need to remain in work. Yet a new report from the Resolution Foundation shows that while UC offers some benefits to older workers, it also misses an opportunity to raise older people’s incentives to stay in a job, or return to work. Without these incentives, low paid work simply does not add up.

Continue reading “Guest blog – Universal Credit: a missed opportunity to help older workers”

The impact of bus cuts on older people in rural areas

We have heard a lot lately from various politicians about the need to examine the universal benefits received by older people and in particular the concessionary bus pass. It seems that in the age of austerity, even something that has been so successful and proved so popular, is subject to review.

But it is not just the threat from government to withdraw the bus pass from all bus cutsbut the poorest, there is also the threat to bus funding from the imminent spending review. Cuts to bus services will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

Older and disabled people have hugely benefited from free bus travel and often rely on public transport to do their shopping, get to their GP and hospital appointments and visit friends. Continue reading “The impact of bus cuts on older people in rural areas”

Attitudes to ageing

With an ageing population and increasing numbers of us living in to late old age, attitudes to later life have never been more relevant. At the same time, our straitened economic position and pressures on public services to meet financial challenges whilst providing for these growing numbers of over 6os, means the debate often hinges on economic and political issues.

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The ‘burden’ of our ageing population is frequently stressed, accompanied by an emphasis on inequalities between generations that incite division.

Yet, one of the strongest messages to come out of a session I chaired last week at Age UK’s For Later Life conference was that the media furore on the ‘burden of ageing’ is not reflected in public attitudes.

No satisfaction

Ben Page of Ipsos Mori revealed polling showing that 68% of people aren’t satisfied with the Government’s treatment of older people and that care for the elderly is consistently amongst the top three scoring issues of concern to people of all ages.

I believe this polling strikes at the heart of the debate about attitudes to later life, illustrating the gap between political and media rhetoric and the views of the individual. But why is there such a gap? How do we form our attitudes to later life? And are they showing signs of changing, heralding strains on intergenerational relations? Continue reading “Attitudes to ageing”

Ready for ageing?

Reablement photo by Philippe Leroyer

All too often, our ageing population is represented as an unmitigated disaster for the nation and the words ‘ticking timebomb’ appear with monotonous regularity.

A new report from the House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change offers a refreshing change of perspective. It recognises that ‘longer lives represent progress, and the changes do not mean a great economic or general fiscal crisis’. But it also sets out a number of challenges facing us – and some thoughtful solutions for change.

The Committee, chaired by Lord Filkin, called the nation ‘woefully unprepared’ for the changes ahead and recommended a number of actions for all of us. The Government is challenged to set out its vision for public services in an ageing society in a White Paper.

In particular, the report rightly recognises the increased strain on health and social care and calls for greater integration and much more focus on prevention, early diagnosis and managing long-term conditions, with patients fully engaged in decision-making. Age UK agrees. Continue reading “Ready for ageing?”

The opportunity to reform social care must not be lost

 

Care in Crisis 2012 confirms what many older people and families already know: that social care in England is under phenomenal strain.  Our analysis paints a picture of a seriously under-funded care  system having an increasingly damaging  impact  on those older people who need support to live safe and independent lives.  It also shows that without additional resources the situation will get worse.

Care under-funding is not a new problem, but we are now living with the effects of declining real terms investment  over the last six years, combined with growing numbers of older people.  The inevitable result is that there are not enough services to go round.

Eligibility criteria have tightened, around 800,000 older people have unmet needs and the financial demands on those  who do receive services are rising.

Recognition that a funding gap exists  is also not new, but the problem is becoming starker  and the consequences for older people more profound as the spending cuts really bite.

Despite additional Government investment in care to help protect frontline services from cuts, our analysis shows that care budgets have still fallen in real terms by 4.5% in 2011-12.  This equates to  a shortfall of £341m and the money transferred from PCTs for care services does not fill the gap. There are additional cost implications even to maintaining services at 2010-11 levels.  Our analysis concludes that this year’s shortfall is £500 million and we project that the Government will need to spend £1 billion more next year compared to this year just to stop things getting worse.

These figures illustrate the scale of the challenge and at Age UK we are clear that additional money for care needs to go hand in hand with reform.   We have to do more than just subtly change the ways in which  services are provided to embrace wholehearted reforms that safeguard services for the future and  ensure they are of consistently high quality. 

At a time of austerity, it is all the more important that services are efficient and provide good value for money. That’s why we support the proposals put forward by Andrew Dilnot; they place the funding of care on a more sustainable footing and in our view they achieve a fair balance on the contributions needed from individuals and the State.

More broadly, our aim must be to create flexible and responsive care that gives older people the right support at the right time. Yet at present older people often tell us that they find the care system complex, unfair and inconsistent, and set up so it is impossible to plan ahead. 

Clearly, there is an urgent need for a single piece of legislation which articulates what people are entitled to and how they can access services. 

And looking ahead to the forthcoming Social Care White Paper we think there are two key challenges:

  1. Protecting existing services and funding the care system so that those who are currently in need can be confident of efficient, high quality and reliable services now.
  2. Planning  for the future to maintain and enhance the provision of care and the system that supports it, for the benefit of generations to come. 

As the political parties continue  their cross-party talks they must reach agreement on these crucial issues.  There is a golden opportunity for reform and it must not be lost.

Read Care in Crisis 2012

Find out more about the cost of social care for older people

Find out more about Age UK’s Care in Crisis campaign

 

 

Care Quality Commission under-resourced

The publication of the Health Select Committee report today backs up our belief that that Care Quality Commission needs more resources to undertake inspections. The committee reported that the focus on registering providers had taken away resources from its core function of inspection. This led to a huge 70% fall in the number of inspections in the second half of 2010-2011. MPs stated that the priorities and objectives of the health and social care regulator were not clear and the system for registering new providers was not thoroughly tested before being rolled out.

The role of the Care Quality Commission is to support the most vulnerable; the significant drop in inspections is therefore of grave concern. In 2010/11 just 3,805 inspections took place in adult care homes comparison to 10,856 in 2009/10. MPs highlighted that these failings were not adequately brought to the attention of ministers.

The only way the health regulator can provide better monitoring and regulation is to have more resources, yet their budget has been reduced by 30%. We are calling for yearly inspections to safeguard the quality of care for of older people in hospitals and care homes across the country. The challenge now for the Government and the Care Quality Commission is to work together to ensure this takes place and that they have the funding to do so.

Find out more about our Care in Crisis campaign