7 December, 2016
Four out of five local authorities do not have enough care for older people in their area to meet local demand – with the result that more than 6.4 million over 65s live in areas with insufficient provision.
By Justin Irwin, (photo left), Interim Chief Executive, Family and Childcare Trust
It was a great pleasure to welcome guests to the launch of the Older People’s Care Survey 2016 at Legal & General’s offices last week, despite the deep sense of concern shared amongst attendees about the findings.
At the Family and Childcare Trust we have more than 40 years of experience in research into family life. While our focus has been childcare and families with children, we increasingly hear from parents and grandparents who are managing or providing care for an older person, while also looking after young children, and are concerned about the multiple care pressures facing families.
The Older People’s Care Survey was designed to increase understanding of the issues faced by older people and their families. We sent surveys to all UK local authorities and health and social care trusts, who are responsible for funding and arranging care as well as managing the market for care in their area. Their responses revealed deeply concerning shortages in care and gaps in knowledge.
Four in five local authorities reported they do not have enough care for older people in their area to meet local demand – meaning that more than 6.4 million people aged 65 and over live in areas with insufficient provision. Most alarmingly, people with the highest needs face the worst shortages: though one in six councils do not have enough standard care home places, more than two-thirds do not have enough nursing care places for older people who require specialist dementia support.
Last week’s event, chaired by Dennis Campbell from the Guardian, discussed how these shortages of care are affecting older people, their family and society as a whole. Baroness Sally Greengross, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia, highlighted the impact that care shortages have on different generations of family members, including the spouses, children and grandchildren of people in care – this is not just an issue for older people, it is something that impacts on us all.
Claire Harding, my colleague from the Family and Childcare Trust, pointed out that when local authorities do not know what self-funders pay, or whether or not the provision of care in their area meets demand, they are unable to fulfil their duty to manage the local market, and cannot help families and older people prepare and make arrangements for the future.
Yawar Choudhry from Legal & General and Jane Vass from Age UK gave food for thought on some potential solutions, including partnerships with the third sector and the need for people to think ahead (write a will, think about care in advance, have a plan for dealing with a health crisis). They also highlighted some of the challenges, most notably getting this subject onto the Government’s agenda.
Listening to the discussion, I was struck by the need for us all, individually, to take responsibility for changing society’s approach to the subject. We live in a country where people seem unwilling to accept the concept of death, let alone the idea of ill-health or incapacity that may precede it. Our aim with this report isn’t to inflame the debate, but to inform it. Denial, anger, bargaining and depression may all be required along the way, but if we can start by accepting that we are approaching a crisis in older people’s care, we have a chance at finding a resolution.
This must be priority for all of us. Everyone has the right to safe, comfortable and dignified care when they are unable to look after themselves, and no-one should be unnecessarily worried about what will happen when they get old. When care is unavailable, this puts a strain on family members, who may also be juggling work and childcare. Getting older people’s care right could also reduce the pressure on the NHS caused by delayed hospital discharges, or inadequate care causing health to deteriorate. Fixing the care system is an economic imperative, as well as a moral one.
We are grateful to Legal & General for supporting this research, and helping us highlight what is a hugely important issue for millions of families in the UK. To read more about the findings and recommendations made by the Family and Childcare Trust, you can find the full report, as well as regional and national factsheets.
Legal & General wants everyone to have the financial resources to enjoy a secure retirement. We are the UK’s largest investment manager for UK pension schemes and have over two million customers saving for retirement in direct contribution (DC) pension schemes and are responsible for providing regular pensions income .for over one million people.
Our lifetime mortgages allow retired people to release money from the value of their homes to boost their retirement funds. One of the ways that this money can be used is to pay for domiciliary care or adapt a home as health deteriorates. We have also invested into care home providers and are looking to stimulate the market for building specialist retirement homes.
What’s your experience of elderly care provision in your local area?
What impact is the care crisis having on family life in the UK?
Join the debate and tell us what you think
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