Age UK analysis reveals crippling care costs

July 28, 2020

New analysis from Age UK has found that every day, fourteen people exhaust their assets paying for care that is essential for them to carry on living.

A year on from the Prime Minister’s pledge that no one would have to sell their home to pay for their care, the findings reveal that older people have spent more than £7 billion buying their own care in that time.

In England in 2018/19, the latest year for which figures are available, 5190 people were classified as 'self-funders with depleted funds' – in other words people who had run down their savings and assets until they had virtually nothing left, because of having to pay for care. This represents a sharp increase of more than a third (37%) in the numbers who find themselves in this position, compared to the previous year.

In the absence of social care reform and of a Government backed system which shares the financial risk of developing a need for care, significant numbers of unlucky older people and their families are being forced to spend staggering amounts for support that is essential for them to carry on living.

In England, 167,000 older people and their families now have to fund their own care because they do not meet the means-test that qualifies somebody for free or subsidised support. They spent more than £7 billion (£7,390,084,000) on care during the 12 months since the Prime Minister took office.

These revelations come at the same time as the charity stages a ‘virtual hand in’ of its petition calling on the Government to stand by its commitment to fix social care and make it free at the point of use, fair and available for everyone who needs it. The petition was signed by 109,306 people before the pandemic struck. Alongside the petition there will be recordings of messages from older people who need and provide care about how extremely difficult the last year has been for them, before as well as during the pandemic, and why change is so desperately needed.

Age UK is calling on the Government to resolve the severe underfunding that afflicted social care even before the pandemic arrived and which meant it was in no position to stand up to Covid-19 when it struck.

Before the pandemic it was widely agreed that the social care system needed around £8 billion over 2019/20-2020/21 just to return quality and access to levels in 2009/10, which in themselves were not all that great. In addition, councils say that they now need an extra £6 billion in order to meet the extra costs caused by Covid-19. Without further Government investment of this order councils say they will be forced to make cuts to social care this autumn, at a time when there are enormous concerns about managing a possible ‘second wave’ of the pandemic plus the usual pressures caused by the cold weather and seasonal flu.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director for Age UK said, ‘Chronic underfunding put social care on its knees before Covid-19 came roaring in so it was in no position to withstand the battering the virus dealt out. Tragically, there have been an estimated 30,000 excess deaths of older people living in care homes during the pandemic, a shocking number that shames us all.

‘When he became Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to fix social care and make sure no one would have to sell their home to pay for it. Now, after all the loss and suffering caused by the pandemic it is more important than ever that he follows through.

‘With 14 people a day being ruined due to sky high care bills and self-funders spending more than £7 billion on care in a year it’s clear that the unlucky individuals who need care face far too high a price. The obvious solution is for us all to share the risk of developing care needs by paying into a national fund, like we do with the NHS.

‘More than a hundred thousand members of the public signed our petition before the pandemic, calling on the Government to act, and it’s a fair bet that if we ran the same exercise now there would be even more support. Public awareness of what care does and why it matters has been greatly raised during the pandemic, as has admiration for the work paid care staff do – often for only poverty pay.’

‘As part of a necessary process of national atonement so far as social care is concerned it’s time for a new deal which transforms it into the decent, reliable public service we are all entitled to expect, with care staff getting a fair return for their labours. Nothing can bring back all those older people living in care homes whose lives were so sadly cut short by the virus but at least we can say ‘never again’ and show we really mean it, by agreeing the funding and reforms that in all honesty we should have had more than a decade ago.’

The Age UK analysis of NHS Digital Adult Social Care Activity and Finance Report, England 2018-19 data can be accessed here https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/adult-social-care-activity-and-finance-report/2018-19


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