Social care spending for the elderly and the disabled faces "devastating" cuts, according to new research conducted by Age UK. The data compiled based on Freedom of Information data shows that funding for services for the over 65s will drop by £610 million (8.4%) this year. This means the average net spending on people aged 65 and over would fall to £791 from £864 in the previous year.
Age UK argues that only 40% of those who need support actually receive it but even then the funding would fall to £2,335 from £2,548. The charity claims that the elderly care system is already close to breaking point and these cuts would push it over the edge.
"Funding for social care is already inadequate and the system today is failing many older people at the time when they really need help," said Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK said. "The consequences of cutting expenditure further by 8.4%, as indicated by our research, could be devastating. We are fearful that even more vulnerable older people will be left to struggle alone and, in some cases, will be put at risk." The charity wants the government to set out a new funding system for social care that would be fair for "today's and tomorrow's pensioners".
The government denies the situation is at breaking point. Ministers argue that the charity's figures are wrong as it has failed to incorporate the whole of the additional £1 billion investment in social care which is being diverted from the NHS. "We know that social care needs urgent reform, but Age UK's figures simply don't add up," Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said. "Their suggestion that only 35% of NHS social care funding will be spent on older people is simply wrong."
"While some councils may simply be cutting care, others are working hard to get more for less with innovative ways of delivering better care, including using more tele-care and cutting needless admissions to hospital and residential care," he added. Ministers also argue that £2 billion more would be invested in social care by 2015. The government is expected to produce a white paper on social care by December and a new social care reform bill is expected to make its way through Parliament sometime next year.
Emily Thornberry, Labour's shadow care services minister, said: "Labour warned from the start that the Tories' plans to slash council budgets would mean deep cuts to care services and would see the most vulnerable in our society suffer."