Failing social care - the savage cost of austerity.
The news that the NHS is seriously in deficit is not surprise. One major reason is the failure of the social care system leading to added burden on the NHS. Cuts to local authority budgets have had a huge impact on the care system, and we are now witnessing the devastating effects. Meanwhile care costs are hitting families struggling to provide care for their loved ones. AgeUK has warned that the care system in England is in crisis.
In 2011 the Dilnot Commission called for a cap of £23,000 on the costs to be born by an individual. This would have meant that when the care costs had reached that threshold then state funding would kick in. Next year the Government will set a cap of £72,000 - three times that recommended by Dilnot. This will leave individuals in considerable difficulty.
Local authority funding is varied across the country, leaving a post code lottery for public funding of social care and hundreds of thousands are missing out on support for care costs. The root cause of the problem is cuts in government funding to local authorities.
We need a properly funded national care system to work in parallel with and integrated with the National Health Service.
Age UK estimates there are more than 1 million left struggling each day without proper support and the numbers continue to grow as cuts in funding leave local authorities struggling to meet needs. A report published by adult social care chiefs (Association of Directors of Adult Social Service (ADASS) earlier this year warned of £1.1bn budget cuts to the sector. Additional funds, it said, are urgently needed to protect services after "almost unendurable" cutbacks in the past five years. Spending on the NHS has remained static at best, whilst funding for social care has been cut by 10.7%. It is a false economy.
Cuts in social care is having a huge impact on the NHS, where each year £669m is being spent because older people are finding themselves trapped in hospital for days or even weeks.
Most of the care is being provided by some 6 million unpaid carers - partners, parents, siblings. The burdens of such care mean that many of these are unable to stay in work and it may also lead in turn to health issues. The cost to the economy of people dropping out of work to care is estimated to be a massive £1.3 billion a year through foregone taxes and benefits for carers.