Advertisement

More than half a million people miss out on adult social care after years of budget cuts

Over half a million elderly and disabled people in England have had their request for social care turned down by local councils struggling to balance their books.

Figures released today by the Government's Health and Social Care Information Centre show there were over 1.8 million new requests for help in 2014/15.

But, after six years of cuts to local authority budgets, the money simply isn't there to fund them all.

Almost a third of those asking for assistance (520,000) were told there were no services available, while another 575,000 people were redirected to other sources of help, like charities or phone helplines.

But every charity I spoke to today told me they simply can't pick up the pieces of a care system which they claim has been cut to the bone.

Age UK's Campaign Manager Sam Nicklin believes more people are now having to rely on relatives to get by.

She said "These are not luxuries. We are talking about absolute everyday essentials - things like help to get out of bed, help to prepare meals. But more and more elderly people are not getting the support they need.

"These figures show that the system is in crisis with more and more people needing care and councils with less and less money to provide it."

Age UK's Campaign Manager Sam Nicklin believes more people are now having to rely on relatives to get by. Credit: ITV News

Over the past year the Department of Health has been working more closely with councils to find smarter and more efficient ways of coping with England's aging population.

A spokeswoman told us: "Since April our £5.3 billion better care fund has been getting NHS and social care services working together to keep people well and out of hospital."

But nine out of ten local authorities admit they are now only able to fund those with substantial or critical needs. Over the past five years that has resulted in 25% fewer people receiving publicly funded social care.

Yet what we don't know is how much worse things are right now. And that is particularly worrying when 2014/15 saw the steepest cuts to social care yet.

The problem is the Government has made big changes to the way councils record information about who gets help with care and support.

1.8m
new requests for adult social care dealt with by councils in England over the past year
520,000
of those requests got nothing at all
575,000
of those requests were redirected to things like charities or phone helplines
144,000
people ended up getting publicly funded, long-term help

Richard Humphries, the King's Fund Assistant Director of Policy, told me: "In the long run this will give us a better picture of how people are helped and in what way. But in the short term it makes it impossible to compare these numbers with previous years. With council spending on care down 3% in real terms last year, the changes leaves us in the dark about the numbers of people affected."

That is particularly ironic given the Health Secretary today told the Conservative Party Conference that we are world leaders in using transparency to push up standards. It is an approach that may be working on a clinical level - where Jeremy Hunt has made better reporting something of a personal mission.

But remember, any failings in social care provision have a huge impact on the NHS - with people unable to get the help they need at home often deteriorating and ending up in hospital. Others, with no social care package in place, find themselves stuck on the wards, with doctors unable to risk discharging them.

So not being able to uncover how many more people are being turned down for support is a bit of a sticking point for hospital managers trying to gauge demand for the winter.

Unfounded or not, this critical gap in what we know also offers more ammunition to those who claim our care system is in crisis.

  • ITV News Social Affairs Editor Penny Marshall will examine the pressures care companies face on Tonight, Thursday at 7.30pm on ITV
  • Have you been affected by this issue? Share your story with us by emailing yourstory@itv.com