Care in crisis – massive fall in care spend for older people since 2010

This blog was contributed by Jill Mortimer, Policy Adviser at Age UK

Older lady with carer in care home

When we first started our research for the Age UK Care in Crisis 2014 briefing, we expected to find that there had been some reduction in funding for older people’s social care services, given the continued pressure on public funding.

However, we had hopes that the Better Care Fund announced by the Government last year would put the system on a better financial basis, as well as improve the system by encouraging more joint working between health and social care locally.

And we were encouraged by the Care Bill’s emphasis on health and wellbeing as providing a really good starting point for better supporting older people’s aspirations and needs.

However, our research has shown us that the current social care system is in even deeper crisis than it was when we published our last briefing in 2012.

There have been even more dramatic real-term cuts in the funding available to social care services, despite transfers from the NHS to try and protect services. Continue reading “Care in crisis – massive fall in care spend for older people since 2010”

Guest blog – Why is dementia research the elephant in the room?

This blog was contributed by Matthew Norton, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, at Alzheimer’s Research UK

With the Care Bill running through parliament, the development of historic reform of the funding system for social care and much political focus on the integration with the health system, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Gordian Knot that is health and social care integration is close to being severed.

Challenges to health and social care integration

There are a number of reasons why there is still a long way to go before it can be claimed that social care has been fundamentally and sustainably reformed:

  1. The challenges associated with funding reform;
  2. A lack of a concrete and proven plan to integrate health and social care with a focus on the individual;
  3. Structural issues relating to the fact that health is free at the point of use and social care is not.440x210_holding-hands

However, at Alzheimer’s Research UK we are concerned that the issue of dementia and particularly research into finding effective treatments is being missed in the debate around health and social care. Of course we have the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia, and this has been responsible for a huge step forward in fighting dementia, but we know this alone isn’t enough. A focused and coordinated effort to create a step change in the way we tackle a particular issue is one thing, but in order to create a sustainable and ambitious legacy it is crucial to build solutions, learnt from this initiative and others, into the fabric of the health and care services. Doing so will continue to improve the lives of people with dementia long beyond any single initiative. The current agenda around social care presents us with one such opportunity. Continue reading “Guest blog – Why is dementia research the elephant in the room?”

The Global Impact of Ageing: The Oldest Old

In an earlier blog we discussed how people aged over 85 are the fastest-growing segment of the UK population. However, this is not just happening here or in other industrialised nations; rather, it’s a global phenomenon.

Age UK is working with the Gerontological Society of America to invite articles from experts around the world on what is happening, why, and what it means for societies, health and social care services, and policy-makers. These submissions has been published in the recent Public Policy and Aging Report.

blogSome of these submissions looked at comparing life expectancy, disease, and disability trends in the 85+ group across countries. There are many variations, but one commonality across all of these countries is that the average person over 85 is a woman living alone in the community, which means governments and societies will have to think about how to meet growing needs for these people without family to look after them. Continue reading “The Global Impact of Ageing: The Oldest Old”

Can we improve the quality of new homes for future generations?

The Government has now released its long-awaited consultation paper on building standards. So far the press have mainly focused on space standards, rather than the implications for accessibility. The Government’s review considers several options to make progress, while recognising the challenges of a rapidly ageing society. The main proposal on accessibility is to establish three levels for building standards to take account of differences in local housing need. At the moment, Part M of the building regulations determines the ‘visitabilty’ of new homes. This covers areas such as level step free entrance and floor, and having a downstairs loo. The Government propose that this should remain a baseline standard that applies to all housing.

At the same time they suggest, as one option, an ‘intermediate’ second level standard that could be based on the lifetime homes standard and a third level for specialist wheelchair accessible housing. This would mean that the number of homes built to either the prescribed ‘lifetime homes’ or wheelchair access levels 440x210-woman-leaning-on-fireplacewould be determined by projected local demand, following a local authority’s assessment.  While giving local authorities flexibility it would establish a consistent standard at each of the suggested levels to reduce the cost and complexity of the variety of different local requirements, which are applied at the moment. Continue reading “Can we improve the quality of new homes for future generations?”

Meeting the challenges of an ageing population

Each year, Age UK stands back and takes an overview of how society is meeting the needs of people in later life and sets out our agenda for public policy in the year ahead. In our Agenda for Later Life 2013 report we track changes in a range of key areas including money matters, work and learning and health and social care.

A couple smile at each other in the garden.

Public attitudes, policies and the economy all impact on people’s experiences of ageing.  This year, as the economy bumps along the bottom, it would be all too easy to concentrate on the challenges we face. However, we strongly believe in the need to focus on the opportunities as well.

The publication of a White Paper setting out plans for a new single tier State Pension brings hope of better provision in future for those with low incomes and interrupted working lives. Continue reading “Meeting the challenges of an ageing population”

Who can I turn to? Information and advice services for older people

This blog was contributed by Lucy Harmer, Age UK’s Head of Services.

Many older people experience a complex interaction between living on a relatively low fixed income, declining health and mobility, and risk of social isolation. They need holistic, independent information and advice (I&A) from advisers with experience and knowledge of their specific issues. Good-quality I&A is essential to enable people to access entitlements and services in order to maintain a decent quality of life and to continue to live independently. Timely interventions can prevent increased pressure on health and social care services. This is especially important when people in later life and the services they rely on are experiencing unprecedented change and challenges. Unfortunately, many older people struggle to find the support that they need as they navigate a complex system, often against a background of cuts to provision or changes in eligibility.

Government policy increasingly focuses on extending choice in public services,440x210_man-woman-reading increasing independence and giving people more personal responsibility. If older people are to benefit from these developments, the government must ensure that they have access to the I&A they need to make informed decisions. Failure to access I&A when it is needed can increase the risk of long-term or multiple problems. Continue reading “Who can I turn to? Information and advice services for older people”

Have your say – a better deal for older leaseholders

The retirement homes sector has come under fire in recent years over reportedly unfair practices by some retirement housing providers – aspects of which have recently been investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).  Problems include confusing service charges, lack of competitive tendering for maintenance contracts, high transfer fees, high commission charges on building insurance and unfair rental charges for wardens flats.

In response to these concerns, the Association of Retirement Housing Managers 440x210-woman-leaning-on-fireplace(ARHM) – which the majority of providers are members of – has worked with Age UK and a panel of leasehold residents to improve their voluntary code of practice.  The ARHM has also given older people and their families the opportunity to help shape the new code to improve practice in the retirement home industry. This consultation comes after a recent roundtable discussion, chaired by the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, looking at promoting best practice in the sector. This is helpful, but it is vital that as well as listening to the views of the retirement housing industry, residents also have an opportunity to express their views and influence Government policy. Continue reading “Have your say – a better deal for older leaseholders”