Three million hours of home care ‘lost in three years’

Age UK has warned that three million hours of home care have been lost in three years due to council cuts. Credit: PA

Too many older people are living in misery as they are left waiting for months to receive care in their own home, a charity has warned.

Older people and their families are paying the price of council cuts, with the provision of homecare services falling by three million hours since 2015, Age UK said.

It described how many are finding themselves “trapped in a nightmare of bureaucracy,” with local authorities struggling to meet growing demands for care with inadequate resources.

The charity is calling for the Government to prop up the current system with more investment, with figures showing the average spend per adult on social care fell 13% – from £439 to £379 – between 2009/10 and 2016/17.

Age UK said it was not surprising that over the same period around 400,000 fewer older people received social care, as eligibility criteria were tightened by councils desperately trying to “square an impossible circle of rising demand and falling funds”.

Its report also highlights concerns about the emergence of “care deserts” – areas of the country where it is now impossible to find any care at all.

It spoke to many families including that of Brian, who had a care assessment by social services three months ago but has not heard anything since.

He has been sleeping on the sofa in his living room because he can no longer manage the stairs and says he feels suicidal.

Age UK said the same issues were heard again and again, from callers across the country, including long waits to get an assessment, care services that are disjointed or simply unresponsive, and social services declining to get involved.

It also repeatedly heard of support and services being cut back despite people’s needs staying the same or increasing, a fundamental lack of capacity in the system and poor quality services and support.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Three million hours of home care have been lost in the last three years because of central Government cuts and the lives of many older people have been sharply diminished as a result.

“Our new report shows the appalling human consequences as councils struggle to do the impossible: meet growing needs for home care with grossly inadequate resources.

“This is a crisis for many families too, like Sally’s, left to care for her deeply unwell father-in-law because the local council says there is no home care available in her area for them to purchase on his behalf.

“When the care market is so obviously broken, for the sake of older people the Government must intervene.

“This is not only the right thing to do from a moral perspective, it makes good economic sense too: good home care keeps older people fit and well in their own homes and is far cheaper than a spell in hospital or a care home – the typical alternatives.”