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Older People's Care Survey - from Family & Childcare Trust

The survey of local authorities across the UK, generously supported by Legal & General, reveals that older people face an ongoing struggle to get the care they need, with 4.2 million people aged 75 and over living in areas that do not have enough care.

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Legal & General host launch event for Older People’s Care Survey 2017

Legal & General hosted a breakfast reception to launch our second annual Older People’s Care Survey. It was a great pleasure to welcome our panel and our guests - with such a wealth of knowledge between them – to discuss our findings.

The survey of local authorities across the UK, generously supported by Legal & General, reveals that older people face an ongoing struggle to get the care they need, with 4.2 million people aged 75 and over living in areas that do not have enough care.

The Family and Childcare Trust has over 40 years of experience in research into family life. We see every day in our work the difficult choices that families have to make when they are not able to find or pay for care that they trust. Care is part of our infrastructure: it allows children and adults with care needs to be well looked after, supporting family members to work, learn and relax.

The event, chaired by Greg Hurst from The Times, discussed how these shortages in care are affecting older people and their families, and where we might look for some solutions to fix our struggling care system.

Our Head of Research, Claire Harding, revealed some of the key findings of the report:

  • Just one in four local areas in the UK report having enough older people’s care and two fifths of local authorities expect the shortages to get worse in a year’s time.
  • The shortages are worst for those who are most vulnerable, with fewer than two in five local areas having enough specialist nursing care.
  • The prices paid by local authorities for care have increased by less than inflation, leaving little room for providers to make the investments required to sustain high quality care.
  • Many local authorities are uncertain of how great their local care shortages are, with a fifth reporting that they cannot tell whether they have sufficient care available in their area, up by a third since last year. This means that many local authorities lack the information they need to help families, who are often thrust into navigating a complex care market without warning.

Chris Knight from Legal & General pointed to some potential solutions. He highlighted the huge amount of housing wealth held by the over 60s of £1.5 trillion, dwarfing the annual state bill for elderly care of about £10 billion. However, he warned that the wide regional variations in house prices and housing wealth create huge disparities in the ability of people to meet self-funded care costs with this wealth. The estimated value of family members and friends acting as unpaid carers for their loved ones is £60 billion a year. Many people decide to reduce to stop working in order to manage caring responsibilities, meaning employers are missing out on their wealth of knowledge and experience. Combining private sector solutions with collective savings and insurance initiatives is required to make sure that care is available fairly. 

Paul Burstow, former Care Minister and chair of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, suggested that more emphasis should be placed on where we should spend this money, focussing on the most cost-effective solutions. Making maximum use of developing technologies to meet care needs is a key aspect of this. He also highlighted the lack of upstream intervention services like home care and extra care housing: greater investment in these may enable people to remain independent for longer, avoiding the need for more expensive residential care.

While the panel and attendees felt that the information provided by the report was useful, there was also disappointment that it falls to charities to look at whether there is enough social care available. It is key that the Government understand where there are gaps – otherwise they won’t be able to take action to make sure everyone can get the care they need.

Our survey reveals that older people face a complex and unfair care system, which is unlikely to support them to remain independent for longer, or to be able to care for them when they are most in need. This puts immense pressure on families – often increasingly frail spouses – to fill the gap.

We are grateful for Legal & General for supporting this research. We hope that this report will help local and national policy makers to understand the detail of our complex and varied care system, and ultimately to make sure everyone gets the care they need, wherever they happen to live or how much money they have.

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