Elderly care in crisis over funding

Elderly and vulnerable people are facing a life or death postcode lottery over the amount being spent on their care.

In many parts of the country vital services, such as home help and round-the-clock care, are being hammered by swingeing cuts.

Some councils under the strain of government cuts have been forced to slash the amount they spend on support by more than a quarter. But in other areas people have seen the amount put towards keeping them happy and healthy soar.

Critics have warned that these huge disparities have created a postcode lottery, leaving the losers dangerously isolated.

Richard Hawkes, of the Care and Support Alliance, which represents 75 of Britain’s leading charities campaigning for decent standards of care, said: “Every day, our organisations hear horror stories of people who struggle to get the support they need.

“One in three people have experience of the social care system. 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, cut out of the care system.

“People become isolated, can’t live on their own and slip into crisis, which inevitably has a knock-on effect on the health service that is forced to pick up the pieces.”

A Sunday Post analysis of every local authority in England has uncovered staggering discrepancies in adult social care spending over the last five years. Of the 152 local authorities scrutinised, 39 were forced to cut their social care budget by 10% or more, despite the ageing population.

By contrast a further 20 councils were able to increase their spending by at least 10% some by as much as 25%.

Our analysis paints a worrying picture for elderly and vulnerable people, sometimes living in neighbouring areas, receiving vastly different levels of support.

Drastic cuts in social care packages, such as funding care home places or home help, has been blamed for causing elderly people to be trapped in hospitals known as bed blocking which has worsened the winter hospital crisis.

Residents served by Barnsley Council in South Yorkshire were the biggest losers with a cut of 25% between 2009/10 and 2013/14, meaning it spent just £2.6 million per 10,000 people last year.

Of the 20 councils forced to make the biggest cuts, five of them were in the North East, with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council slashing by 20.3%, North Tyneside Council 19.6%, Gateshead Council 17.4%, Durham County Council 17.3% and Middlesbrough Council by 15.4%.

By contrast Southend-on-Sea Borough Council in Essex, saw a 167.6% increase in funding, although it still spends only £2.8 million for every 10,000 people, which is among the lowest in the country.

Other big winners included Bracknell Forest Council in Berkshire, which enjoyed a 26.3% funding boost, and in Cheshire East funding soared by 24.5%.

Beth Farhat, of the Northern TUC, believes “your postcode should not determine the quality of care you receive”.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Case Study: NOWHERE are cuts to social care funding felt more keenly than among the home carer workers battling to maintain elderly people’s quality of life.

Hard working Rochelle Monte, 39, a married mum-of-three, from Newcastle, is one such carer. Over 20 years in the industry she has seen local government budgets slashed and witnessed the effect it has had on elderly people relying on it.

She said: “Over the past four or five years I have seen a huge decrease in the quality of care provided. You might find a carer has four 15-minute calls in an hour, but they might be miles between each other, so they end up having to steal time from these people to get there. You cannot provide dignified care in that time.”

Six months ago Rochelle stopped working for firms which take on council contracts, and moved to Home Instead Senior Care, an independent provider which has minimum one-hour care slots. Rochelle says having time to spend with her clients, for the first time in her career, has made a huge difference. She added: “We have the time to build up relationships with the people we are working with.

“I have never worked anywhere people are so happy and content and it is because of the minimum one-hour slots they provide the time to build those relationships.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The union official whose members want to see improvements said: “The Government’s sledgehammer approach to public services has resulted in a growing social crisis for many of our communities.

“The cuts in the North East have been worse than many feared because the Coalition has chosen to make its deepest cuts to council services in areas of greatest deprivation.

“Not only are people losing their livelihoods, but services are being stretched to breaking point and the most vulnerable are paying the greatest price.”

The data, released through a Parliamentary Question, reveal that overall there has been a 3% drop in the amount spent on adult social care including disabled and vulnerable adults among the 152 local authorities over the last five years.

Separate figures released last week found over the past decade there has been a 20% decline in the amount spent on social care for the over-65s.

Over the same period, the number of people aged 65 and over in England has increased by 1.4 million, a 17% rise.

Some local authorities have seen budget cuts of up to 40%, forcing them to pull resources from other services to cover the costs of their ageing population.

Last week David Sparks, head of the Local Government Association, described social care funding in England and Wales as being in a “ridiculous situation” and revealed councils have had to switch £900 million from other services to plug the care gap.

Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, Jamie Reed, said: “David Cameron’s disastrous cuts to social care are heaping more pressure on GP surgeries and A&E departments already under serious strain.

“Cuts to adult social care budgets have meant people are left with little option but to turn to A&E for help.

“Without the right care at home, vulnerable people are trapped in hospital, despite being well enough to leave.

“Hospitals are full to bursting and people are waiting longer in A&E as a result.

“The evidence shows the that the Government is presiding over a postcode lottery of social care provision and this is having a profound impact on the NHS as a whole.

“Labour’s 10 year plan for the NHS will integrate social care with the NHS to improve social care and 5,000 extra care workers will allow people to receive care in their own home.”

A Department of Health spokesman said they have given councils an extra £1.1 billion this year to help protect social care services on top of additional funding in recent years.

He added: “Ultimately, councils are responsible for deciding how to spend their budgets.

“From April our Care Act and £5.3 billion Better Care Fund will focus resources on helping people to live independently, which will save councils money and improve care.”

Cancel