Age UK says this demonstrates why the Government must come forward with proposals to reform and properly fund social care, sooner rather than later
The wait goes on for the Social Care Green Paper the Government has promised to publish, but in the 700 days since the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced the Government’s intention to produce one during his Spring Budget in 2017, 54,025 older people have died while waiting for a care package to be put in place for them.
Over the same period, in excess of half a million older people (626,701) have had their requests for social care refused by their council, and 7,240 older people have had the terrible experience of running down all their savings because of their care bills, leaving them reliant on the State to fund their care in future and with nothing to leave for loved ones after their death.
In addition, during the same 700 day period, 1,263,844 older people have developed an unmet need, such as being able to wash or dress. This is 1,805 developing an unmet need every day.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK said:
“These tragic new figures demonstrate just how many older people are now suffering from the Government’s failure to act decisively on social care. No one can say whether some of those who have died might have lived longer had they received care, but at the very least their final weeks and months might have been more comfortable and their families’ lives made easier, had they been given more support.
“Some policymakers talk about social care as though it was some kind of ‘nice to have’ discretionary purchase, but for older people whose health is in decline and who may be approaching the end of their lives it is an absolutely vital public service, and sustaining it and ensuring it is of good quality ought to be a top Government priority. However, the fact we have waited so long for the Green Paper and that its publication has been delayed five times calls this seriously into question.
“Delays in putting care packages in place for older people reflect a social care system that is inadequate to the task and struggling to cope. Councils are often overwhelmed and therefore slow in processing applications and carrying out assessments, and even once all the paperwork has been completed there can be long delays because there are simply no paid carers available locally to provide help.
“We fully accept that the Government has had many crucial issues to deal with over the last 700 days, but if it’s your Mum or Dad, husband or wife who is profoundly unwell and who badly needs more support there is nothing more important to you in the world. As it is, more than 50,000 older people and their families have been let down when many of them needed help the most. Sadly, it seems inevitable that more will join them unless and until the Government grips this issue and gets on with the process of reforming social care and giving it the funding it needs.”
Age UK’s Information and Advice phone line hears daily from people struggling to get a care package in place and who, in the meantime, struggle on alone, compromising their health and wellbeing and putting huge strain on loved ones. Here are some of the stories:
- ‘Jean’ – an older woman, 87, lives at home with multiple care needs. Social Services carried out an assessment and decided she needed three care visits a day and was eligible for funding. However, she has been waiting for this care package to be put in place for many months. The social worker says the care isn’t available at the moment and there aren’t enough carers. The family is currently providing the care but this is causing an enormous strain on them.
- ‘Barbara’ –an older woman, 95, who is terminally ill with advanced bowel cancer. She is incontinent and in need of extensive personal care. She was offered one hour a day help with changing pads and washing. However her last assessment found her condition had improved, as can happen with cancer, so she was no longer eligible. Barbara’s daughter is at her wits end as she does not want her mother to be sitting in soiled pads all day.
- ‘John’ – an older man who is bed bound, in severe pain and doubly incontinent. Social Services has failed to complete an assessment or provide suitable care. John’s consultant neurologist visited in October and was astounded there had been no changes or improvements since he last visited six months ago.
- ‘Enid’, 102, and her son ‘Thomas’, 70, are both in the same care home. They have had care needs assessments which took two months to carry out, but nothing else has happened for another two months and they are still waiting for a financial assessment. In the meantime both have funds worth less than £10,000 now and the family is panicking about what will happen next with their care.
- ‘William’ is an older man who had a stroke in October last year and left hospital shortly afterwards. He is now partially blind and needs help with a number of activities of daily living. Despite a self-assessment claim form being completed on his behalf over a month ago his wife has heard nothing since, not even an acknowledgement. His wife doesn’t know if she is entitled to any financial help, such as carers’ allowance, or what other support might be available to them.