Not enough family members to provide care in later life

Not enough family members to provide care in later life

According to the think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research the number of older people in England needing care will “outstrip” the number of family members able to provide it by 2017.

In a new report published today it estimates that by 2030 there will be more than two million people aged 65 and over with no child living nearby to give care if needed.

Most care for older people is not provided by the state or private agencies but by family members, at an estimated value of £55 billion annually.

However, as the baby boomer generation ages, a growing ‘family care gap’ will develop as the number of older people in need of care outstrips the number of adult children able to provide it.

This is expected to happen for the first time in 2017.

Overstretched services will struggle to provide extra care, with two-thirds of all health resources already devoted to older people and social care services facing a funding crisis.

Adult children and partners will take on even greater caring responsibilities and more people, particularly women who outnumber men as carers by nearly two to one, are likely to have to give up work to do so.

The report says that we should be to ‘build’ and ‘adapt’: to build new community institutions capable of sustaining us through the changes ahead and to adapt the social structures already in place, such as family caring, public services, workplaces and neighbourhoods.

This will require a different role for the state, one that is more about establishing partnerships with families and communities than traditional service delivery.

An alternative way forward would be to give more power to people and institutions to improve their own wellbeing, to support each other and to prevent care needs from arising, thereby benefiting from the ‘multiplier effect’ this would have through volunteer networks.

Investing in strengthening community networks across the country now would be a relatively small but sound investment in the future.

The report presents four major recommendations, to be addressed as part of a five-year funding settlement across health and social care.

  1. New neighbourhood networks to help older people to stay active and healthy, help busy families balance work and care and reduce pressures on the NHS and social care.
  2. Care coordinators providing a single local point of contact, to replace the ‘case management’ currently provided by adult social services in every area by 2020, for all but the most complex cases of care.
  3. The option of a shared budget to enable those using community care to arrange this collectively.
  4. Stronger employment rights for those caring for people who need more than 20 hours of care a week, to make it easier for family members to combine work and care.

Janet Morrison Independent AgeIn response to this report Janet Morrision, Chief Executive of Independent Age, says:

“This report confirms the huge concern felt by many about who will look after them when they are older. We are already in crisis in terms of caring for older people. 800,000 older people don’t get the care they need from either the State or their families.

“With growing life expectancy this problem will only get worse unless action is taken now.

“There is a severe funding squeeze on local authorities. More money is needed in the care system however money should also be used more effectively through the use of better advice and information services.

“Under the new Care Bill there will be a duty of care on local authorities to establish an information and advice system for social care in their area. The IPPR report highlights how crucial this is”.

Mario Ambrosi, Head of Public Affairs at care charity Anchor says: “There is a lot of pressure on families today. Anchor research found that half of people feel guilty for not making more time for older family members, and more than a third (34%) say that living too far away is the main reason for not visiting their elderly relatives. Often older people need more specialist care too – but the care sector is facing challenges of its own.”

We need to transform our understanding of what ‘social care’ is in order to help people live decent lives, to put in place the right building blocks to prepare for an ageing population, and to reduce future demand for care in later life.

by Patricia Vine

What are you views on this report?  We’d really like to hear from you about the issues it raises for you or your family. Please use the comment box or write to Ed.