'Threadbare' care system is 'failing' elderly and vulnerable people

Credit: PA

Social workers from across England have blown the whistle on a "threadbare" care system, with new evidence suggesting elderly and vulnerable people are being failed across the country.

469 social workers from every region in England responded to an online survey by the Care and Support Alliance.

Their answers, at times shocking, depict a system still struggling to cope despite an additional £1 billion in government funding this year.

Nearly 7 out of 10 social workers said they felt expected to reduce care packages because of cost pressures in their local authority, with 1 in 3 unable to get people the care they needed.

A whopping 4 out of 5 said family and friends were expected to plug the gaps.

Among the responses, were some harrowing examples of care being removed in order to save money.

"I worked with a woman who could strip wash but who couldn't reach her back and intimate parts of her body so had paid carers for years as part of her personal budget to help her....however it was cut as she was physically able enough to strip wash. This was devastating for her."

"I had to reduce the care package for three brothers who live together. Each has either a mental health problem, physical or learning disability. They had a substantial care package for 15 years... After reducing the care package two of them went into residential care and died. The other was admitted to hospital with dehydration and hypothermia."

"Lunch calls and toileting calls are being reduced from 30 minutes to 15 minutes to save costs……"

"[We have] removed lunch calls for service users with dementia."

England's local authorities are responsible for funding social care but over the past seven years government cuts have removed over £6 billion in real terms from their budgets.

It is estimated there are now half a million fewer people receiving care than there were five years ago.

Rachel Looby, 30, from Harrogate, who is visually impaired and has autism, told ITV News she ended up in hospital after her care was cut.

She said: "I went from 17 hours care to 6 hours a week. I'm epileptic and the stress it put on me gave me seizures. I took the wrong medication and I couldn't cope - it felt like the ground had been pulled from under me."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We know social workers do incredible work and we want to make sure that everyone, especially older and vulnerable people, receive compassionate care.

"We have provided an additional £2 billion for social care and have committed to consult on the future of social care to ensure sustainability in the long term."

But Age UK's Caroline Abrahams, co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance said: "The suffering that vulnerable people are experiencing today is the direct result of the decisions successive governments have made to under-fund social care. The extra £2 billion this Government has pledged will certainly help but the funding gap is far larger, so the situation is certain to worsen without further action."

The needs of the elderly and vulnerable became one of the main issues of the General Election, with a consensus emerging that a long term funding plan was desperately needed.

But the pressures of Brexit seem to have diminished the government's commitment to come up with a sustainable solution, just as the evidence suggests the social care system is more thinly stretched than ever.