Social care crisis

Social care crisis

A recent report from the charity Age UK concludes that we are living on borrowed time in saving social care for older people from complete collapse.

The report, ‘The Health and Care of Older People in England 2017’ draws on official statistics as well as new Age UK analysis. It builds on Age UK’s previous work and highlights the immense challenges facing older people who need care, the numbers of whom increase every day, and the impact of the failure to provide it on their health and wellbeing, as well as on the NHS.

Worryingly, the report suggests that however tough things are now they threaten to get a lot worse over the next few years for a number of reasons which the report details.

The report also examines the Government’s strategy for keeping the social care system from totally falling apart and concludes that it is not up to the job and is failing.

Unless something changes the Charity says there is a genuine risk of social care completely collapsing in the worst affected areas this year or next.

Urgent injection of funds

The Charity is calling on Government to recognise the imminent danger which social care is now in and commit to an urgent injection of funds in the Spring Budget.

It also calls on the Government to lead a process for developing a long term solution to the care crisis that incorporates the views of older and disabled people and all parts of the health and care sector, and that engages the public in the important question of how we pay for a decent care system we can all rely on when we need it.

Here are some of the startling facts revealed by the report:

  • The analysis shows there are now nearly 1.2 million people aged 65+ who don’t receive the care support they need with essential daily living activities.  This represents a 17.9 per cent increase on last year and a 48 per cent increase since 2010.
  • The percentage of the older population receiving social care support fell from 15.3 per cent in 2005/06 to 9.2 per cent in 2013/14.
  • There has now been a £160 million cut in total public spending in real terms on older people’s social care in the five years to 2015/16, during a period of rapidly rising demand because of our ageing population.
  • By 2020/21 public spending on social care would need to increase by a minimum of £1.65 billion to £9.99 billion in order to manage the impact of future demographic  pressures alone.
  • Cash transferred from the NHS to social care has grown from two per cent of the total public spend on older people’s social care in 2006/07 to 16 per cent in 2015/16.
  • The proportion of people who provide unpaid care for family and friends has been slowly tracking upwards, rising from 16.6 per cent of the population in 2011 to 17.8 per cent in 2015.
  • There are now over two million carers aged 65 and over, 417,000 of whom are aged 80 and over. The report finds that 37 per cent of these carers aged 80 and over are providing 20 hours or more of care a week, and 34 per cent are providing 35 hours or more.
  • Yet nearly two thirds of older carers themselves have a health condition or disability, while 72 per cent report feeling pain or discomfort, rising to 76 per cent for those who provide 20 or more hours of care a week.
  • In 2015/16 the overall staff vacancy rate in the social care sector was 6.8 per cent (up from 4.5 per cent in 2012/13), rising to 11.4 per cent for home care staff.
  • Between August 2010 and July 2016, the number of days of delay in being discharged from hospital because of waits for home care had increased by 181.7 per cent, from 12,777 delayed days to 35,994. Waits for residential care placements increased 40 per cent, from 13,459 to 18,973.

Frightening reading

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director said:  “This report makes for frightening reading because it shows just how fragile older people’s social care now is.

Even worse, unless something changes the crisis will certainly deepen this year and next, and we think there is now a real risk of a complete collapse in social care in the worst affected areas.

If this happened it would be a disaster that would threaten the health and even the lives of the older people affected. It would also greatly intensify pressures on our hospitals.”

“Some older people and their families are already telling us that they simply cannot find any carers where they live, and we are also hearing of vulnerable older people receiving council funded care whose help has been significantly reduced, leaving them to manage alone for many hours at a time.”


“The Government has tried to prop up older people’s social care in three ways: through financial transfers from the NHS, a social care precept in local areas, and by calling on families and friends to do more.

Unfortunately our analysis shows there are problems with all three approaches, which in any event are not enough to make up for the chronic shortfall in public funds.

The NHS is now under such financial pressure that it can’t keep bailing out social care; the amount the social care precept can raise doesn’t match the needs in an area – with the poorest places at great risk of losing out.

New Age UK analysis shows that the numbers of families and friends coming forward to care are not keeping pace with a rising ageing population.”

“What’s more, two million of those who care for a family member or friend in our country are themselves older people, often with their own health problems. And astonishingly, more than a hundred thousand people in their eighties and beyond are caring full-time.”

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