Headlines: January 3rd, 2008

Hundreds of thousands of older disabled people have to rely on family members or draw on their life savings to provide the care they need, according to a national charity which is today calling for a radical new framework to meet what it calls a ‘care funding gap’. Counsel and Care says informal and private arrangements are plugging a funding gap of 25,000 pounds for every disabled person over the age of 65 in Britain.

The charity draws on a new survey from its Advice Service to point to widespread confusion about the care system. This, it says, is due to the lack of funding, an information gap and a strong perception of unfairness. In ‘A Charter for Change’, published today, it is calling for 2008 to be ‘the year of the care debate’ in the run up to the publication of a Green Paper on social care.

The study shows that 1.9 million disabled people over 65 get no state-funded care and predicts that the figure will rise to 2.6 million by 2022. It finds that the combined value of informal unpaid and privately funded care for over 65s has escalated to more than 66 billion pounds every year and that most people are reliant on friends and family to make up the shortfall. Three quarters of local councils, it says, provide care only for those whose needs are judged to be ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’. It also predicts that the cost of social care will more than double from the 2002 level of just over 10 billion pounds to 24 billion by 2026, as the population gets older.

Counsel and Care is urging the Government to adopt a radical new framework for the future of social care because only then, it says, can services be effective in meeting the needs of older people and their carers. The charity calls for services to be person-centred and show dignity and respect for older people, support the choices and needs of older people and their carers and deliver independent living and active citizenship for older people. The organisation also calls on the state to set out clearly what it will provide for individuals and says services should be sustainable, offer flexible quality care and provide value for money. It wants health and social care services to be brought together and calls for improvements in the skills and pay levels of care workers.

Stephen Burke, the charity’s Chief Executive, said, “We know from our Advice Service that there is a real frustration amongst older people and their carers with the lack of fairness and lack of clarity over who is actually eligible for care. Widespread confusion is also rife on issues like self-funding and there is a huge gap in information about local services, particularly from local authorities.”