Over a period of just five years, the number of frail elderly and disabled people receiving care at home has decreased by a third because councils have had their budgets cut.
A study conducted by LSE, analysed NHS figures and has found that there has been a major reduction in elderly and disabled people receiving home care. This comes at a time when the number of older people in England is growing almost twice as fast as the general population.
The Care and Support Alliance, an umbrella group of 75 charities working with elderly and disabled people commissioned the study. Details of it were published as a committee of MPs continue the process of revising the Government’s Care Bill.
The long-awaited shake-up of the care system will introduce a theoretical £72,000 cap on the amount anyone in England should have to pay for care in their lifetime. It will also bring in a scheme enabling some of those who do have to pay for care to defer the cost, to prevent them having to sell their home whilst they are alive and introduce a new national test to establish who is frail enough to qualify for care.
However, the study concludes that even if the changes lead to a major new injection of cash into the system, the scale of the cuts in the last few years may have seriously undermined its foundations.
NHS figures show that the number of adults, combining both elderly and disabled people, receiving care either in their own home or in care homes has dropped by 27 per cent overall from a high of 1.3 million in 2008 to fewer than 930,000 last year. While the number of adults in care homes is down by just eight per cent in that time, the numbers receiving help in their own homes has plunged by 31 per cent. The decrease was even more steep among older people than disabled people, plunging by 36 per cent from 652,000 five years ago to just 418,000.
The main reason for the decline in the numbers of older people in care homes is because councils have been tightening their eligibility criteria for care, rationing it to all but those in the most severe need.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope and chairman of the Care and Support Alliance said, “you can’t tackle the winter A&E crisis, without looking at the historic squeeze on social care. We now know that community-based care has been hit hard. Chronic underfunding has left hundreds of thousands of older and disabled people, who need support to do the basics, like getting up or out of the house, out of the care system. Without that support they become isolated, more likely to slip into crisis and end up in A&E. The Government has put forward strong proposals in its Care Bill, which will greatly improve a social care system which is on its knees… We want the Government to have the courage to see its bold plans through, and make sure that those who need support to live independently get community-based care. The Minister has engaged with the sector and acknowledged the issue but the Government needs to commit to properly funding the social care system.”