Ros Altmann, who warned the last government of an impending pensions crisis, says that care could escalate to become a bigger financial crisis than pensions unless the current government gets an iron grip on care funding.
Dr Altmann, Director General of Saga, and a director of the Saga Respite for Carers Trust, warned: “The care issue is a time bomb. We can hear it ticking, and there is a clear strand of inevitability: it is not going to go away, it is going to get bigger – every statistic says that.
“There seems to be a great deal going on relating to care, but nothing actually happening. Every care- and age-related charity or support group and now the media itself – in the form of the BBC, no less – is acutely aware and extremely active in highlighting the current plight and future dangers associated with a growing elderly population,” said Ros Altmann.
“The people most affected, and their carers, are literally running out of time. There needs to be a decisive change in how care is provided and paid for. There is a complete lack of joined-up thinking between NHS and local government-provided care, with the problem being passed from one authority to another.
“The government’s political horizon is a great deal closer than the care horizon. Those in government allegedly tackling the care issue should be starting to think like statesmen rather than politicians, and look beyond that political horizon.
“Saga is in a unique position of being expert in both financial- and care-related issues. We can see this problem looming; other care and age issue experts can see it, but I fear the government can’t see it. Because it’s not visible or relevant to the majority of people, there seems to be no sense of urgency.
“We saw precisely that with the pensions crisis and the lending crisis; things were allowed to escalate unchecked, and cost billions of pounds to sort out when a much smaller investment at the outset would have prevented what became a massive problem.
“But we must not lose sight of the victims of the care shortfall. That around 80% of local authorities surveyed by the BBC say they are changing how much they spend on care is not just provoking uncertainty amongst the elderly and their carers, but potentially a postcode lottery too. What if, for example, of two neighbouring local authorities one declares it is cutting care spending and the other increasing it? There’s potentially a cross-boundary stampede which will make a complex situation even more complicated.
“The impact could be vast – it must be sorted out, and the next financial time bomb defused before it’s too late for the elderly and infirm, their carers – and the British economy.”
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