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Almost 30,000 Older People Died Waiting for Social Care Report Reveals

New Age UK analysis has found that 28,655 older people aged 65+ died in 2022/23 before ever receiving the social care for which they were waiting. This equates to an average of 79 deaths a day, 550 a week, and 2,388 a month. The Charity says that in many cases, had these older people got the help they needed their final days would have been more comfortable, and their families would have felt less alone and better supported.

These miserable numbers are broadly similar to those from the year before, reflecting a social care system in which long waits have become a common experience. Age UK says the fault for these delays rests squarely on the lack of public money to allow local authorities to assess older people speedily, and on there often being insufficient care workers to staff the care services a growing older population urgently needs.

Age UK’s latest polling on social care also confirms how hard it can be to access care and support. Respondents spoke about waiting too long for benefits assessments, care assessments, care packages or reviews, discharge support, and home adaptations – and the toll this took on them and their families in the meantime.

The results from this polling of people aged 50+ and Age UK’s policy analysis will be set out in a report the Charity will be publishing in the coming weeks. The report’s other social care findings include:

– Almost a third (29% – 7.5 million) of people were concerned about their ability to access Local Authority services.
– Almost a fifth (19% – 4.9 million) of people were concerned about their ability to access a home care worker or carer.
– Almost a fifth (19% – 4.9 million) of people were concerned about their ability to access Dementia services, such as a Memory Clinic.

We conducted a survey alongside the polling, as part of our research. More than 17,000 people aged 50+[iii] responded and around two fifths of them told us that they were paying more to manage their own health or that of the person they are caring for. All the costs associated with having declining health or mobility and needing care and support have gone up and this is clearly having a real knock-on impact on some older people’s quality of life:

“We pay for 4 days at a day care centre. We also pay an agency for 3 hourly sessions in a morning. We have a private carer for six hours a week which has just been funded from my recent care assessment. I was awarded this 15 months ago but never received it! I have to pay for extra incontinence pads as the ones from the bowel clinic don’t work for him. Bedding needs to be washed everyday day and getting it dry in winter is an issue.”

“Paid care has had to be cut in order to manage the costs. Other cutbacks including cheaper food, living in one room etc have already been implemented.”

“Respite care cost has increased, day care service cost has increased together with cost of getting him there. Podiatry and dental care costs have increased. He isn’t concerned because I take care of it all, so I am the one worried about it.”

“OT fitted a hoist in my bedroom. Told me I have to hoist myself. This is impossible, so I cannot use it. I cannot afford to pay for care, and I have no family. I have fallen twice lately trying to get from wheelchair to bed.”

“We could do with help from social services, but we would have to pay. Can’t afford to pay carer and high energy bills etc, there is no help, we are on our own every day.”

“I had carers (local council’s agency) in after I broke my arm. no one came to assess me. No one told me what I had to pay until I got an assessment 4 months later telling me I owed nearly £2,000.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said:
“Good social care makes a big difference whenever it is needed, but never more so than in the last weeks and months of our lives. Kind and committed care professionals provide comfort and reassurance, especially important for older people living on their own, and help lift the load from family members for whom this is often a time when they want to focus one hundred per cent on being a child, partner, or other loved one, without the distraction and worry of carrying out all the care tasks themselves, or of having to wade through red tape to get a formal care service up and running. For these reasons it is really sad when social care arrives too late.”

“The numbers of older people dying while waiting for care are also emblematic of the now chronic systemic problems within social care, as hard pressed local authorities try to meet the needs of a growing older population with resources that in no way match up. Social care lacks sufficient funding and, in many places, trained staff, and unless and until we get a government that’s prepared to face up to these problems older people will continue to go to their graves without receiving the social care they are due.

“In our recent polling of the 50+ population, a big majority, four in five (80% – 20.6 million) thought that government should be doing more to support the NHS and social care services. We hope that the political parties contesting the General Election will listen and respond. Older people who need social care have waited too long.”

In Age UK’s blueprint for improving the lives of older people report for the General Election, the Charity is calling on the next Government to:

• Stabilise the social care sector and act quickly to consult on putting funding on a sustainable footing.

• Within 18 months, publish a comprehensive plan to reform social care and commit to implementing it in full over five years.

• Fund an immediate pay rise for care professionals, and within two years publish a comprehensive social care workforce plan, joined up with the NHS Workforce Plan.

• Introduce a right to at least five days of paid Carer’s Leave, plus a longer period of unpaid leave.

• Significantly increase access to respite services and practical support for carers that recognise the specific needs of older carers.

 

 
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