With the General Election campaign in full swing, the most important issue for many elderly people and their families, is being sidestepped as “too difficult” for politicians to tackle.
According to The Independent, experts at Age UK estimate that around one million elderly people that need basic care, are simply being left to struggle on at home.
Age UK, the leading charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life, says this is the single most important issue for older voters in the Election. And if it’s important for those experiencing unmet social care needs, you can bet it’s equally so for their families. So those asking for our votes in May are ignoring a vital issue for potentially many millions of voters.
Forty per cent cuts to government funding for local councils, and the withdrawal of more than £1bn from the social care sector since 2011, has shifted the responsibility for caring for elderly people to the NHS and left it struggling to cope because of its own staffing and funding issues. This has resulted in a catastrophic gap, filled increasingly by a mixture including partners and family members, with serious impact on their own health conditions, jobs and lives.
The full extent of the state withdrawal of social care services was revealed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), which shows that 10,600 council jobs in adult social care – 8 per cent of the total workforce – were lost between 2013-2014. This workforce has decreased by 10,000 a year since 2011 while the ageing population continues to rise, though this does not include those working for charities or private companies.
Hospital admissions are also rising and admissions of patients aged between 65-69 – who may require greater care and support – increased the fastest, by 5.5 per cent.
Elderly people suffering trips and falls at home, which might be avoidable with proper social care support, accounted for over 400,000 admissions, according to the HSCIC, up by more than 10,000 on last year. Absence of social care also contributes to keeping elderly patients in hospital. As we’ve said before, so-called bed-blocking is a major cause of lack of hospital beds and long waits in A&E departments.
Age UK estimates that £3.36bn needs spending to meet the needs of our most vulnerable senior citizens. It’s a lot of money but just 0.22 of our GDP. But the question remains, are our political parties brave enough to commit to tackling this issue or will they continue to evade one of the most pressing social problems facing our country?