Headlines: July 4th, 2007

 

Fewer older people are getting the care services they need and others are facing increasing charges for support, according to a survey of local authorities published today. The annual study by national charity Counsel and Care, has found elderly people are facing an ever-tightening squeeze in trying to access care services.

The organization says that since a similar survey last year the problem has got worse and the ‘care gap’ is widening with low-level care services, such as shopping and cleaning, being squeezed out for many older people in favour of intensive care services for a few. The new findings show older people who are not eligible under their local authority’s strict criteria are being referred to voluntary services, which are over-stretched, or being forced to arrange and pay for care privately. Often, the charity says, older people have to rely on the goodwill of friends and relatives who are, in turn, bearing the burden of the tightening eligibility criteria.

In cases where older people’s needs are such that they are eligible for home care services costs are also ever-increasing and these elderly people and their families and carers struggle to afford to live independently at home or to pay care home fees. People on a low income, and those with no close support network, the study warns, will find it difficult to access the support they need.

The survey’s results show 15 per cent of local authorities raised their thresholds for services in 2007 due to budget pressures, more than 70 per cent provide only for those older people with critical or substantial needs and 12 per cent provide only for those whose needs are critical. Some local authorities have an hourly flat-rate ranging from seven pounds 55 pence to more than 17 pounds after financial assessment. Other authorities have a weekly cap on charges for services, ranging from 60 to 326 pounds. The study also claims that older people living in care homes bear the brunt of unrealistic standard rates.

Stephen Burke, Chief Executive at Counsel and Care, said, There is a triple lottery for care services based on where someone lives, how their local authority applies the eligibility criteria for services and the charging policy of the local authority. Older people deserve much better.”