While financial responsibility for the NHS rests on the budget provided by the Government, care provision is the duty of local councils and shocking new statistics show a frightening shortage of facilities.
Carers Week, 8 – 14 June, is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlighting the challenges faced by carers and recognising the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
This year they’re focusing on building Carer Friendly Communities to support carers looking after their loved ones, while recognising that they are individuals with needs of their own, as however devoted a carer is, they still need the support of professionals.
A disturbing new report informs us that almost half of councils (48%) are unable to meet the full demand for elderly care as:
• they have average of 582 unfilled care hours per month
• 2,165 new carers are urgently required to meet the rapidly increasing demand
• Scottish Councils are the worst affected
Freedom of Information requests submitted to 103 UK councils for the period 1st – 31st January 2015 reveal almost half of councils were unable to find a care provider to cover all care requests. The number of unfilled hours ranged from 21 hours to 4,124 over the month.
The average number of hours not placed at the first point of asking across all councils was equivalent to the number of hours worked by five additional care workers. When assessing just those councils where not all care was immediately placed, this rose to an average of 1,221 hours per month, equivalent to 10 extra care workers.
6.5 million carers
Across the UK today 6.5 million people are carers, supporting a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill. That’s 1 in 8 adults who care, unpaid, for family and friends. Within our lifetime, there will be 9 million carers.
Our loved ones are living longer with illness or disability, and more and more of us are looking after them. Whether round-the-clock, or for a few hours a week, in our own homes, or for someone at the other end of a motorway – this can have a huge effect on us, our lives and our plans.
Caring is such an important part of life. It’s simply part of being human. Carers are holding families together, enabling loved ones to get the most out of life, making an enormous contribution to society and saving the economy billions of pounds.
Yet many are stretched to the limit – juggling this role with work and family life, or even struggling with poor health themselves. They often find it difficult to make ends meet if we’re unable to work or if have reduced working hours.
Every day 6,000 more people become carers. Many don’t know how or where to get help. It can be a very frightening and lonely experience. For some it’s sudden: someone you love is taken ill or has an accident, your child is born with a disability. For others, it creeps up unnoticed: your parents can’t manage on their own any longer; your partner’s health gets gradually worse.
Therefore it is vitally important that the care provisions are in place to support the millions who give care to those at home.
If the care gap grows at the same rate as the over 65s population (23%) this would mean that by 2025 the average council would be unable to fill 716 hours of care a month, equal to a shortage of more than 310,000 hours UK wide, equivalent to the work carried out by 2,558 care workers.
Considering population growth among the over 75s – the age at which the need for care is likely to increase – this demographic is predicted to increase by 37% to 7.3 million in 2025 when the care gap would be equal to more than 2,849 care workers.
Jonathan Bruce, managing director of Prestige Nursing who published the report, comments, “There is a clear shortage of carers, with councils unable to find providers to cover requested care, something that will only increase as the number of older people in the UK continues to soar, and the number of people requiring care rises. Under the coalition cuts to council budgets have meant it is now only the most serious cases that qualify for council care. Yet even those in urgent need are in danger of not receiving the care they need.”
“Care workers choose their profession in order to help people, and although care and nursing was recently voted the most fulfilling sector to work in, a key reason for the difficulties in recruiting staff is the demanding nature of the job and relatively low pay, impacted by a lack of government funding. There are going to be extraordinary demands on our care services in the years to come and we need action now on providing adequate reward and strong career prospects to those we need so desperately to join the profession.”
While charities such as Carers UK fulfil a vital role in providing expert information and advice that’s tailored to each situation, to championing carer’s rights and giving support in finding new ways to manage at home, at work, or wherever, they cannot fill the gap left by inadequate professional care.
With councils facing further huge budget cuts under the new Government this is a really worrying time for those who are carers or who will be required to provide this service in the future.