30% of local authority areas have ‘no access’ to residential care beds - Age UK
July 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 mission to put man on the moon. Society has changed markedly since then; life expectancy has surged, pension age has equalised for men and women, and the ‘Baby Boomer’ post war children have become the wealthiest generation in recent history. That same cohort are now casting aside historic ‘‘aged’’ stereotyping and living life to the full for much longer.
One wonders what could be accomplished if the forward planning required for a moon landing could be applied to planning for the cost and resources required by a rapidly ageing society. By 2035, there will be double the number of people aged over 65 living with four or more comorbidities; the Alzheimer’s Society predict those living alone with dementia will double over the next two decades, and Age UK already describes what it calls care ‘deserts’ where 30% of Local Authority areas have ‘no access’ to residential care beds and 60% have ‘no access’ to nursing home beds. In recent political exchanges about how to address the issues of social care, tax cuts still featured as the favoured method of wooing voters, despite the dire warning of Local Authorities via Adass (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services), who predict that adult social care could consume 60% of local tax revenues within 15 years. Jeremy Hunt MP, previously the English Health Minister, admitted that cuts to social care had gone too far. In the recent prime ministerial election, various candidates came up with their own strategies; tax breaks for families who care for an elder at home, for example. Few were comprehensive strategies. Most at least did acknowledge the unfairness of a system that covers an individual for virtually all life-threatening disease, but excludes dementia, with the cost to families in the last two years alone being £14.47 billion spent on care according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
In the absence of Governmental action to resolve the social care crisis, ideas are now coming thick and fast from all directions. Over the last few months we have seen the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green MP in a paper for the Centre for Policy Studies, calling for a “universal care entitlement” paid for by a National Insurance hike for the over-50s; Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP made the case for a £5,000 per year cap on care costs; the Institute for Public Policy Research advocated for the Scottish ‘Free Personal Care’ model. We can add to this growing list the influential House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, who called on the Government to immediately invest £8 billion in adult social care, followed up by a basic entitlement to publicly funded personal care for all. Last but definitely not least, we noted an open letter from eleven of the ‘experts’ on the Government’s own Green Paper Committee, expressing their frustrations over the delay of that initiative.
On that elusive Green Paper, Matt Hancock MP, the current English Health and Social Care Minister, blamed the delay on “narrow partisan politics” and a lack of cross-party consensus. Critics decried this excuse, noting that a Green Paper is in itself to ‘provoke discussion’. One small step, it seems, is all that is needed to start that process. The winner of the election race, Boris Johnson, moved almost immediately to announce his intention to ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all’, It remains to be seen whether that step will be taken.
Care operators in the main, of course, carry on regardless. Demand drives occupancy, drives fees. Sadly, the loser is often those who must rely on the state to fund their care in old age, or those whose diagnosis of dementia threatens their life savings or family homes. ‘Catastrophic costs’ as Sir Andrew Dilnot described them.
Cost to families in the last two years - £14.47 billion spent on care according to the Alzheimer's Society.
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