A new report from Age UK looks at the reality of homecare cuts. Behind the Headlines – the battle to get care at home illustrates the misery being experienced by many older people and their families, as they try to get the care at home they need.
Too often, people find themselves trapped in a nightmare of bureaucracy and kept at arm’s length by local authorities struggling to meet growing demands for care with deeply inadequate resources, a situation made much worse by years of budget cuts.
This new report by Age UK shows that the provision of homecare services has fallen by 3 million hours since 2015.
The Charity says that this damning figure highlights the crisis facing many older people who are in declining health and in need of homecare services. They say it is essential that the Government acts now to prop up the current system with substantial added investment, as well as bringing forward proposals for placing care on a sustainable financial footing for the future as it has promised to do in the forthcoming Green Paper.
The average spend per adult on social care fell 13%, from £439 to £379, between 2009/10 and 2016/17. It is not surprising that over the same period around 400,000 fewer older people received social care, as eligibility criteria were tightened by councils desperately trying to ‘square an impossible circle’ of rising demand and falling funds. The consequences for older people are increasingly severe, says the Charity.
A number of real-life stories from older people and their families who called the Age UK helpline are included in the report and illustrate how difficult it can now be for older people to assert their legal rights and access the home care they desperately require to live independently at home, even when they are clearly profoundly unwell and even at risk.
The same issues were heard time and again, from callers across the country, and are set out in the report:
- Long waits to get an assessment.
- Care services that are disjointed or simply unresponsive.
- Social services declining to get involved.
- Fundamental lack of capacity in the system.
- Poor quality services and support.
- Support and services being cut back, even though people’s needs have stayed the same or even increased.
- Vital help for families providing care being cut back.
Too often, local authorities were unable to provide basic care and support to older people in need of it, in some instances because there literally wasn’t any available for them to purchase in their local area leading to the development of local ‘care deserts’ that has long been anticipated and feared as social care has declined.
Without urgent action the Charity says this situation will only get worse.