New polling from Age UK finds that 10% (1.6 million) of over-60s in the UK are already cutting back or stopping their social care, or expect to do so in the months to come, because they can’t afford the cost. This particularly affects older people who pay for their own care, but in England even those whose care is supposedly funded by the State often have to pay ‘top ups’ to their provider, so some of them are likely to be impacted too.
In addition, 22% (3.6 million) of older people are already reducing or stopping spending on medications or specialist foods or expect to do so in the coming months; and 15% (2.5 million) are already skipping meals, or expect to do so over the same time period.
Given these worrying statistics it is not surprising that the same polling found that more than half of over-60s 54% or 8.8 million people said they believed that cost of living increases would affect their health and care needs over the winter. Unfortunately, they are probably right.
The charity believes that taken together, these findings are the worst possible news for the older people affected, and for the NHS, because they suggest financial problems will undermine their ability to look after their health in the months to come, at a time when our health services expect to be under unprecedented pressure.
The polling also coincides with a new report by Age UK, which asks and seeks to answer the question the charity hears from growing numbers of older people in England: “Why Can’t I Get Care?”. A big part of the explanation is that a staggering 14,000 people each week are having their requests for care turned down by councils, most of which are overwhelmed by growing demand and have only static or reducing resources with which to respond.
Furthermore according to ADASS between November 2021 and February 2022 there was a 28% increase in the number of people awaiting assessment, care or direct payment, or a review. The report highlights the vast numbers of unpaid carers who are holding up a crumbling care system – providing hours of care for their loved ones, often at the expense of their own health and wellbeing. And the pressure on them is increasing and the worry is that growing numbers of unpaid carers will buckle under the strain, leading to a collapse of their care arrangements, which will then have to be picked up by their local council.
This new data comes after the Care and Support Alliance (CSA), of which Age UK is a member, recently found that 2.6 million people aged fifty and above are now living with some form of unmet need for care in England. This is the best estimate so far produced of the numbers of people in mid-life, as well as above State Pension Age, who require assistance with one or more activities of daily living, like washing and eating. The charity says that to have so many older adults going without the support they believe they need shows it is imperative that we expand the availability of good, affordable care in England, so that more people who require it can actually receive it – something that cannot happen without Government action to improve the pay and conditions of care workers, and to give councils more funding so they can reduce waiting times for assessments, and charges for care. The charity says that the Autumn Statement is an important opportunity in this respect and the Government would be wise to take it.
Read more ‘Why can’t I get care? https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/campaigns/care-in-crisis/why-cant-i-get-care-report.pdf