NEW AGE UK ANALYSIS for the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) has found that 2.6 million people aged fifty and above are living with some form of unmet need for care in England. 

The CSA is calling for an urgent cash injection to address increasing pressures on the care system.  An ageing population, as well as a growing number of disabled people of working age, means problems are escalating, with central Government funding not keeping pace with the growing need for care.

Latest data by Age UK and the Care and Support Alliance show that:

  • 1.8 million of those with an unmet need for care have difficulty dressing.
  • 450,000 of those with an unmet need for care have difficulty walking across a room.
  • 1.2 million of those with an unmet need for care have difficulty bathing or showering.
  • 320,000 of those with an unmet need for care have difficulty eating.
  • 930,000 of those with an unmet need for care have difficulty getting in and out of bed.
  • 600,000 of those with an unmet need for care have difficulty using the toilet.
  • Seven per cent of people in their 50s have an unmet need for care, 12 per cent in their 60s, 15 per cent in their 70s, 21 per cent in their 80s and older

The local authorities which are responsible for funding social care face severe financial pressures due to a long term lack of funding from central government. Social care providers are also facing increased costs, and skilled, low-paid carers are leaving the profession, often to work in retail or the NHS, where terms and conditions are more favourable. At the same time, people who need care are paying more but often receiving less – some have had their care packages reduced or cut altogether and thousands of others are still waiting to be assessed by their local council.

The CSA cites the case of Steven, who is 66 and has complex health needs. He is bedbound and has been for the past 10 months. He had a fully funded care package with included meals and giving him his medication. In September he was informed by his care agency that due to staffing problems they were withdrawing his care from immediate effect and had informed the council. No replacement care was provided. He contacted the council to ask for this to be arranged urgently but this did not happen. He contacted his GP who was unable to offer any assistance. Steven was left without access to food or water for 60 hours, which resulted in him becoming very distressed and unwell.

Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of Social Services Directors are reporting more breakdowns of unpaid carer arrangements, with family members struggling to continue providing high levels of care without sufficient outside support. There has also been a sharp drop in the number of unpaid carers in England reporting that the person they care for has used services allowing them to take a break from caring for more than 24 hours.

The CSA believes that the reforms Boris Johnson announced in September 2020 will not and cannot ‘fix social care’ because they do not improve the quality and availability of care. Instead, his reforms focus on subsidising the cost of care for some people who pay for their own services, especially if they need them for a long time. The 2019 Conservative Manifesto said that older and disabled people and their unpaid carers, deserve the support they require to live decently.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK and Co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance said: “To have as many as two and half million over-50s now living with some unmet need for care is truly astonishing, and it shows how far below an acceptable level of operation our social care services have been allowed to fall. This number is equivalent to one in eight of the entire same age population, and the lack of support must be having a huge impact on all these people’s ability to live a normal life and participate in and contribute to our society.

“There’s no doubt that the long term neglect of social care services by central Government is having very real consequences, not only for the individuals whose lives are at best diminished, and their families who often have to pick up the pieces, but for other public services too, especially the NHS. What folly it has been for our politicians to be so careless about such a crucial public service – it’s high time that changed and I hope our new Prime Minister will turn the page and take a more intelligent approach to social care.”

“At the moment, all the data point to social care becoming weaker as time goes on, not stronger, particularly when you look at the state of the workforce, where vacancies are increasing month by month. This is scarcely surprising when you consider how uncompetitive the terms and conditions in social care now are: the incoming administration must understand that they will not begin to turn the curve on quality and access in social care until they ensure care staff are properly recompensed for the incredible work they do.”

Jackie O’Sullivan, Communication Director of Mencap and Co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance said: “These figures are shocking enough, but with the increasing staff shortages these numbers are only going to increase unless the Government takes bold and urgent action to getting social care the funding it needs.

“Many younger disabled adults are being condemned to living lives where just getting out of the house is a constant struggle, they then can’t work, volunteer or meet people. They just stay stuck inside.

“We need an urgent cash injection from the Government to address all these ongoing pressures on the system caused by the pandemic and in the longer-term need funding targeted at supporting decent pay rises for our hard-working care workforce. This is the only way the sector can get back on an even keel.

“The years of lack of investment means the scale of the challenge is huge and demands urgent action now. The millions of older and disabled people putting up with inadequate services, if they get any service at all, need the incoming PM to get a grip of the problem and aim for transformation through proper reform, but as it stands it is never going to be possible with the meagre funding allocated by the government up to now.”

* Sources: Age UK and Care and Support Alliance