Saga report shows care funding crisis is worse than thought - we're the poor old man of Europe again

Monday 6 June 2011

Saga report shows care funding crisis is worse than thought - we're the poor old man of Europe again

Baby boomers living in comfort today could fall into a precipice of unexpectedly undignified later life if the falling levels of spending on social care and the rising spiral of demand continue to diverge at the current rate. The problem is set to explode if no action is taken.

That’s the finding of a report commissioned by over 50s organisation Saga, which highlights that the shortfall in spending on care could be much worse than previously thought - and that the UK is languishing near the bottom of the European care spend league.

The report, “Take Care – the Future Funding of Social Care” says that no degree of number crunching based on current levels of spend will make ends meet in the sector, meaning potentially catastrophic consequences for millions of Britons in later life. To download a copy of the report, “Take Care – the Future Funding of Social Care”, please click here

“We often look down on other countries, but when it comes to care for the elderly, we should look up to many of them,” said Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga.

Compiled by academics and care sector experts at 2020 Health, the report shows that an estimated 275,000 people with moderate care needs are receiving no financial support as local authorities are desperately reducing their spending to make ends meet, and that there are huge under-spends on technology compared to European neighbours.

“Decent care cannot be provided on the cheap, but not enough money has been allocated. Many more older people, not enough money - and the situation is worsening relentlessly: by 2030 there will be 50% more older people, with associated fast-growing demands on the public purse. Currently, people of working age fund a large proportion of care provision through taxes, and the ratio of taxpayers to older people will fall by a third; so where will the money come from?” said Dr Altmann.

“The fact that people live longer has been with us for a long time, but successive Governments have failed to prepare properly to address the inevitable consequences. Warnings of a pensions crisis were ignored but are finally being taken seriously with urgent reform; however no such sense of urgency has been shown when it comes to care.

“If we think the pensions crisis is a huge problem, care could be a major catastrophe as more older people are left to languish with inadequate resources to look after their needs.

“The 'Take Care' report highlights the enormous challenges we face. In particular, it warns that current policy is incoherent. On the one hand, Government says it wants to encourage people to stay independent and remain in their own homes for as long as possible, which is what older people themselves also want, but on the other hand, by financing only those with greatest need, and reducing funding for those with moderate needs, people are denied the help they require to be able to live at home and it is inevitable that more people will end up in critical need.

“The report also highlights that the UK can once again be labelled the poor old man of Europe. It cites figures from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) showing that the UK spends far less on social care for older people than many other European nations – we’re 17th out of 20. Poland, Germany and Sweden spend 50% more than us, while France and Italy spend twice as much. We should be ashamed of the lack of spending on care, which is leading to an extremely undignified way of life for people growing old in the UK.

“The UK is also behind other countries in the use of telehealth and telecare services - but it is well known that monitoring people more effectively and treating them in their own home can save time and money for health and care services, and is better for them as well.

“The report assesses the various care funding options, including a partnership between paying for yourself and getting funding from the public purse, as well as insurance and savings options – whether voluntary or compulsory – or tax funded. The only certainty is that no single approach is going to suit everybody.

“We need new thinking, and there is no time to dither. More older people, means more demand for social care, but less funding and local authority cutbacks leave vulnerable voiceless victims at risk. It’s a time bomb. We must defuse it.”


For more information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529

To download a copy of the report, “Take Care – the Future Funding of Social Care”, please click here

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