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Half a million older and disabled people lose care since start of recession

elderly-womanHalf a million older and disabled people who would have received social care five years ago, now receive no local support, according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

As MPs prepare to debate the Care Bill, these new figures expose the true scale of the social care crisis.

The study, conducted by the Personal Social Services Research Unit at LSE and commissioned by the Care and Support Alliance, examines the social care system over a five-year period, 2007/8 – 2012. The findings show that:

  • The number of people receiving support from councils with tasks such as getting up, getting dressed and getting out of the house has plummeted for five years in a row – by a total of 347,000 since 2008.
  • Adjusting for socio-demographic change, this is equivalent to 483,000 older and disabled people, who need support for basic tasks like getting washed and having a meal, and the families that care for them, being locked out of the social care system.

The squeeze is the result of councils restricting for whom they provide care.

Of the 152 councils in England, government figures show 86% now offer care only to those with the highest level of needs – deemed as ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’ needs. This means older and disabled people who are unable to undertake several aspects of personal care, or undertake aspects of work, education or training, are no longer eligible for council-funded care.

Under the current system they are described as people with ‘moderate needs’. But the CSA argues that description doesn’t capture the significant impact not having support has on a person’s life.

The LSE research demonstrates that sitting behind the squeeze is a huge funding shortfall - Government spending on social care would have had to rise by an additional £1.6 billion, just to keep pace with demographic pressures. Research by the Association of Adult Social Services Directors (ADASS), shows that adult social care budgets have actually been reduced by £2.68 billion over the last three years.

 Richard Hawkes, chair of the Care and Support Alliance, says:

This research lifts the lid on the true scale of the social care crisis since the start of the recession.Chronic underfunding has left nearly half a million older and disabled people, who need support to do the basics, like getting up or out of the house, cut out of the care system.Cash-strapped councils have also squeezed the care packages of those still receiving support.

"The Government has put forward strong proposals in its Care Bill, which will greatly improve a social care system which is on its knees.But it’s becoming clear that a huge number of older and disabled people will not see any of the benefits of the new system, because of plans to tightly restrict who gets care eligibility”

The Government is planning to restrict the number of people who can benefit from the new system. According to the London School of Economics, setting the threshold at ‘substantial’ means approximately 362,000 older and disabled people will not receive any support from their council. They will have to pay for their own care without their costs being capped.

The Care and Support Alliance has called on the Government to set eligibility at ‘moderate’ so as many people as possible benefit from the new system, and get the preventative support that keeps them from falling into crisis and ending up in A&E.


The new LSE report by Jose-Luis Fernandez and Tom Snell (2013) 

Changes in the patterns of social care provision in England: 2005/6 to 2012/13, is available to view at http://www.pssru.ac.uk/archive/pdf/dp2867.pdf .