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Boom in elderly in rural areas ‘increasing pressure on social care services’

The County Council Network said the demographic shift is heaping pressure on underfunded adult social care services (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The County Council Network said the demographic shift is heaping pressure on underfunded adult social care services (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A boom in older people living in rural parts of England could see the quality of social care and access to services decline without extra funding from the Government, a new report warns.

The number of over-65s living in county and rural areas has increased by a million over the past decade, according to analysis by the County Council Network (CCN).

Data from the 2021 census shows that, for the first time, these areas have roughly as many older people as they do children and young people.

Between 2011 and 2021, those aged 65 and over grew by 1.1 million (23.3%) in county areas, while the number of those aged 0-19 rose by just 72,000 (1.3%).

In metropolitan boroughs and London, the number of older people grew by 14.9% and 15.3% respectively – an increase of just over 400,000 people in total.

The CCN said the demographic shift is heaping pressure on underfunded adult social care services.

These are hundreds of millions of pounds worse off compared to cities and large towns, the CCN said, because the “outdated” funding formula the Government uses does not take into account increased demand in county and rural areas.

County councils are also concerned that reforms to adult social care, due to come in from October 2023, could lead to reduced quality and access to services unless the Government provides more funding and changes how it shares resources between councils.

Councillor Martin Tett, CCN adult social care spokesman, said: “Over the last 10 years we have seen an elderly population boom in county areas, with the increase in over-65s far outstripping rises in other parts of the country.

“This continues the demographic trends we’ve seen in counties for decades, with more people living longer or choosing to live in England’s counties.

“This is to be welcomed. But we also must recognise that the dramatic increase in over-65s in county and rural areas will have a significant impact on adult social care services.

“The failure to reform an outdated council funding formula has left social care services in these areas already hundreds of millions of pounds worse off.

“The reforms to social care in England will have a further disproportionate impact on county areas.

“Unless the Government provides more funding and changes the distribution of money for its flagship adult social care reforms, the quality and accessibility of care services could be further worsened.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Reforming adult social care is a priority and we are investing £5.4 billion over the next three years to end spiralling care costs and support the workforce.

“This includes £3.6 billion to reform the social care charging system and enable all local authorities to move towards paying providers a fair cost of care, and a further £1.7 billion to begin major improvements across adult social care in England, funded by the Health and Social Care Levy.

“Our investment via the levy is on top of record annual funding to help councils respond to rising demands and cost pressures.”