More than 50,000 older people have died waiting for care during the 700 days since the Government first said it would publish the Social Care Green Paper, Age UK has claimed.
The charity said that 54,025 older people have died waiting for a care package to be put in place since Philip Hammond announced the Government’s intention to produce the paper during his Spring Budget in 2017.
The paper has now been delayed several times, but is expected to be published by April.
Over the same period, in excess of half a million older people (626,701) have had their requests for social care refused by their council and 7,240 older people have run down all their savings because of their care bills, leaving them reliant on the State to fund their care, according to data from NHS Digital.
In addition, during the same 700 day period, 1.2 million older people – or 1,805 a day – have developed an unmet need, such as being able to wash or dress.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK said: “These tragic new figures demonstrate just how many older people are now suffering from the Government’s failure to act decisively on social care. No one can say whether some of those who have died might have lived longer had they received care, but at the very least their final weeks and months might have been more comfortable and their families’ lives made easier, had they been given more support.
She added: “Some policymakers talk about social care as though it was some kind of ‘nice to have’ discretionary purchase, but for older people whose health is in decline and who may be approaching the end of their lives it is an absolutely vital public service, and sustaining it and ensuring it is of good quality ought to be a top Government priority. However, the fact we have waited so long for the Green Paper and that its publication has been delayed five times calls this seriously into question.”
Responding to the research by Age UK Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Work to find a long-term funding solution for adult social care has been kicked into the long grass by successive governments for the past two decades.
“Now is the time for answers. Every day that is spent further defining the problem and consulting on changes, is another day in which people’s lives are not being lived to the full.
“The current system of social care is unsustainable and will buckle under the weight of demand. With people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, adult social care is at breaking point.”
Care England CEO Professor Martin Green told Home Care Insight that the “policy vacuum” created by successive Governments needs to be plugged.
“Short term sticking plasters are no good for those people and their families both in need or in receipt of care. The Green Paper simply has to address the discrepancy between the NHS and social care; it is essential to redefine integration and see the whole system in a new outcomes based way.”