Government has ‘less than 10 years’ to save the social care system


The point of no return for the elderly care crisis is less than 10 years away, according to a new report.

The damning research, carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business (Cebr) and commissioned by law firm Irwin Mitchell, warned the UK’s ability to support tens of millions of elderly people will collapse by 2029, unless the government takes decisive action.

The study highlights how demographic change is contributing to the care crisis.

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“As our population ages, more people will be demanding care and rising life expectancies means individuals will live in poorer health at the end of their lives,” the report said.

The social care funding gap, meanwhile, is expected to increase to £3.5 billion in 2024/25. The gap is anticipated to be around £1.5bn for the 2020/21 financial year.

Council leaders warned of this rise last year.

Several factors make up the report’s tipping point calculation, including current care home capacity, state funding levels and pension wealth, and the signs point to the UK reaching a shortage of supply in residential retirement homes by 2029 at the latest.

The report also found a worrying wealth gap is forming that may create a tiered elderly care system, with only around the top 10% of UK retired households by income able to pay for care.

Even with the auto-enrolment pension scheme introduced in 2012, many people’s pension pots will fail to fund care.
Guy Sackett, head of Irwin Mitchell’s Real Estate Retirement Living and Care sector, said: “The Government has failed to act on social care reform in recent years, with the long-awaited green paper promised since 2017 put on hold indefinitely last year. The fact that we now know the elderly care system may well be in crisis at the end of this decade, without a massive re-think, is a stark warning of what is to come.
“Part and parcel of any reform is making sure we have suitable accommodation for our ageing population to live in. Retirement accommodation with care is one of the most undersupplied areas of the UK housing market in the UK.”
Sackett points out that Office of National Statistics has predicted that the number of people in the UK aged 60 or over is expected to pass 20 million by 2030 and there are now more people in the UK aged 60 and above than under 18.  
Yet current estimates of the annual rate of delivery of new homes across all sectors of the country stands at 240,000 per annum, with approximately only 3% of these homes (under 7,500) being specifically designed for the retirement housing/care sector.

An English Housing Survey, published last year, also shows that 93% of UK homes don’t meet basic accessibility standards – and many developers are not building new homes that a suitable for people as they get older.
“The acute under-supply of purpose built retirement accommodation (PBRA), including extra care housing, retirement villages and assisted living schemes, as well as a projected shortage of care and nursing homes spaces as we reach the 2029 tipping point outlined in the Cebr report, means a significant proportion of the elderly population will continue to live in houses they have likely lived in for decades,” added Sackett.
“These will become gradually more unmanageable as their care requirements increase, and where the necessary care and support is not always immediately available, especially in more rural locations.
“We have a new majority government and the first post-Brexit budget coming up. Whilst there have been promises for a cross-party solution to the “Care Crisis”, we need a bold and fast-acting plan before it is too late. The elderly care sector is already on its knees, and continuing to ignore the issue would be a disservice to the millions of people that will be reaching old age in the next twenty years.”

Former pensions minister and expert on later life issues Baroness Ros Altmann will be hosting a special event at Irwin Mitchell’s London office on Wednesday to discuss the findings.

Tags : Accessible HousingCebrCentre for Economics and Businesshousing crisisIrwin Mitchellstudy
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke


    1. Hi, this figure came from the same Irwin Mitchell report and also the Local Government Association, which estimated this gap in 2018. Many thanks

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