Age UK has urged the Chancellor of the Exchequer to use his forthcoming Budget to extend emergency funding for social care, so older people and their carers are not left “high and dry”.
New research from the charity shows that older people’s need for social care has been intensified by the experience of the pandemic, and that close to 1 million older carers have had to take on more caring responsibilities as formal services have been “battered by the virus”.
It warned that social care, already struggling before COVID-19 arrived, is in “no position” to meet this increased demand, and so “it is imperative” that the Chancellor continues social care extra funding through 2021.
Age UK’s analysis shows that 10% of older people aged 60 and over say they now find it harder to look after themselves since the start of the first lockdown, equivalent to 1.6 million older people.
It also found that 40% of informal carers aged 60 and over (900,000 carers) are providing more care since the start of the pandemic.
The charity says this cannot continue indefinitely, as piling pressure on “already stretched older carers” risks these caring arrangements breaking down completely.
That is why formal care services, which have faced rising costs and staff absences since the start of the pandemic, must been given the funding they need. Without this funding, older people will be left in a “perilous position”, Age UK warned.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “The pandemic has intensified many older people’s need for care but after the battering it has received social care itself is effectively broke and in no position to respond. That’s why it is essential that the Chancellor extends the emergency funding for social care in his Budget, so older people are not left high and dry.
“This emergency situation is far from over so far as social care is concerned and it will take at least a year, more likely two, before providers can stabilise their finances. Therefore, just as with some other sectors, the government must give social care the continuing financial support it desperately needs.”
Abrahams added: “The Prime Minister has recently said he will bring forward proposals for the long-term reform of social care later this year and Age UK will certainly be holding him to his pledge. However, in the meantime we have to keep social care going and that’s where the Chancellor must come in with more immediate funding in his Budget.
“If he fails to do so he will simply be heaping more pressure onto the NHS at a time when it needs to focus all its energy on recovery and bringing down waiting lists for treatment. Hospital beds filled with older people who are medically fit to leave but who are marooned by the lack of care in the community is the last thing the NHS needs.”
Age UK has called for Rishi Sunak to extend the Infection Control Fund, Workforce Capacity Fund, hospital discharge fund, provision of free PPE for social care, and state-backed indemnity to care homes until “at least the end of the calendar year”.
It comes after Care England, the largest representative body of independent adult social care providers, said the sector is “desperate” for the government to act on its manifesto commitment to put forward a long-term reform package.