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Care cuts leave elderly to fend for themselves

A joint report by The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust has revealed that government-funded care for older people is being increasingly rationed in England[1].

According to the report, entitled ‘Social Care for Older People’, the number of over-65s being helped by councils had fallen by a quarter in the four years to 2014.

Care is means-tested, with only the poorest getting help to pay for services either in the home or in care and nursing homes[2]. Those left without support now have to choose and pay for their own care.

Access to care depends on what people can afford, and where they live, rather than on what they need. Furthermore, under-investment is undermining the government policy objective of keeping people independent and out of residential care.

Following The Care Act 2014, local authorities appear to be caught in a perfect storm of increasing demands and expectations whilst having limited budgets. The report suggests that most will soon be unable to meet basic statutory duties.

The Government has said that it is investing in the system and has, amongst other initiatives, allowed councils to increase council tax by 2% per year to invest in care services.

The BBC quotes a Department of Health official as saying: "We understand the social care system is under pressure, and this government is committed to ensuring those in old age throughout the country can get affordable and dignified care."

The authors of the report stated that policy-makers need to address three major challenges in shaping the development of social care over the next five years, focusing on how to:

  • Achieve more with fewer resources – for example, through better commissioning and integrated care – recognising that these initiatives will not be enough to close the funding gap
  • Establish a more explicit policy framework, which makes it clear that primary responsibility for funding care sits with individuals and families
  • Reform the long-term funding of social care because reliance on additional private funding is unlikely to be sufficient or equitable.

The report’s publication coincides with an online guide to care from the BBC, which details the costs people face depending on where they live in the UK. By entering a postcode, users are also able to see the benefits offered by their local authority. You can see the guide here:

[1] The King's Fund (2016)

[2] BBC News (2016)

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