Town halls are guilty of ‘age discrimination’ because they are under-funding vital services for the elderly by at least £500million a year, a report says today.
Vulnerable pensioners are being ‘unfairly disadvantaged’ because local authorities are making swingeing cuts to council-funded care and hitting them with soaring charges for services, according to Age UK.
Last night Dr Ros Altmann, director general of over-50s group Saga, said: ‘This report shows us that current policy does not seem to value older people.
A system in crisis: Care providers are failing pensioners who have worked all their lives in the expectation of a safe and comfortable old age (Picture posed by model)
Altmann added: ‘Public spending and policy efforts too often prioritise the young, and discriminate against older people. This is not the mark of a decent society.
‘Middle England is losing out twice: they are increasingly being denied funding for free care, and at the same time the costs they are ending up having to pay are rising to subsidise those who are being funded by the council.’
Age UK’s report, Care in Crisis, found that spending on older people’s care stagnated and then decreased between 2005/06 and 2011/12 – even though at the same time the number aged over 85, the group most likely to need care, has increased by almost 250,000.
The report concludes that councils should be spending £500million a year more on older people’s ‘social care’ merely to maintain the inadequate levels of provision in place when the Coalition took power.
Their failure to do so is leaving thousands without the help they need with washing, dressing and going to the lavatory. Local authority spending on older people’s social care has fallen by £341million, or around 4.5 per cent over the past year.
Taking into account the rise in the elderly population, councils should be spending around £7.8billion this year to maintain similar levels of standards. In fact, they have only budgeted £7.3billion.
Age UK has calculated that, just to maintain the level of care achieved in 2010-2011, councils would need to spend £9.4billion by 2014-2015.
But councils have cut back on service provision. Between 2009-10 and 2010-11, the total hours of support they bought for older people fell from 2million to 1.85million.
The proportion receiving council-funded care has plunged by almost a fifth over the past six years, from 15.3 per cent of pensioners in 2005/06, to 12.4 per cent in 2010-11. Over the same period, the proportion of younger adults receiving care has edged up.
The report said: ‘In terms of public spending on care, older people have been unfairly disadvantaged in comparison with adults under 65. We do not question the importance of providing high quality care for adults aged under 65 who are in need of it, such as those with disabilities and other complex needs, but we are concerned that these trends demonstrate the continuation of historic age discrimination in spending on social care.’
Millions more pensioners could be forced to sell their houses to pay for nursing homes in old age amid plans to almost double the cost of care.
The elderly may be required to pay up to £60,000 - £25,000 more than the current proposed Government cap on fees - for a place, ministers said.
That would mean a couple could be forced to find £120,000 to pay for the cost - with few having any other choice but to sell their houses.
The new proposals - outlined in a report for the Department of Health- are designed to reduce the estimated £2billion bill to the Treasury of funding care.
But it means millions who hoped their National Insurance contributions would pay for their retirement will instead have to use funds their children might have inherited.
The disclosure comes ahead of the publication of a White Paper in April by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley setting out the Government’s plans.
For those who do not qualify for free care, either because their needs are not deemed substantial enough or because they have savings, financial demands are increasing.
The charge in 2010/11 for the average elderly care recipient was £1,996 – up £150 in real terms from the year before and £360 higher than in 2008/09. But because the figure includes those who receive free care, it means that self-funders are paying much more.
The report said: ‘With many councils raising fees and charges and abolishing caps, these costs are likely to climb much further in 2011/12.
‘This means an increasing number of older people will be unable to afford their current care and support, leading them either to cut back on their services or go without.’
The Daily Mail has highlighted the effect of town hall cuts on vulnerable pensioners as part of its Dignity for the Elderly campaign.
Michelle Mitchell, Age UK’s charity director, said: ‘We need urgent Government action now, otherwise the gap will simply get worse.
‘Behind these figures are real older people struggling to cope without the support they need, compromising their dignity and safety on a daily basis.
‘Social care is not a nice-to-have extra – it is the support that helps older people get out of bed, feed themselves, have a wash, live a life that is more than just an existence.
‘We urge all parties to engage openly and constructively in the cross-party talks on care to reach a settlement that guarantees both reform of the legal structure and most importantly the funding to make it work. The Government must not shirk its responsibility to lead the essential reform of the social care system.’
Article from Mail Online