The Tories’ failure to fund elderly care may be the result of ageism and has resulted in a ‘lost decade’, a major report has warned.
A paper by academics at Birmingham University found that without swift intervention, England’s adult social care system could become unsustainable.
Report author Professor Jon Glasby said the impact of social care cuts had been particularly felt in services for older people, with those for the working-age population less affected.
He said that despite the legitimate needs of other groups, ‘it is hard to interpret this other than as the product of ageist attitudes and assumptions about the role and needs of older people’.
The problems of social care have become particularly apparent during the coronavirus outbreak. The paper, ‘A Lost Decade? A Renewed Case for Adult Social Care Reform in England’, said local authority spending on adult social care increased in real terms until 2011.
But afterwards it declined despite increases in need and demand, with an 8 per cent reduction in gross spending between 2009/10 and 2015/16. Spending on nursing care for older people in 2018 was about £4.5billion while projected spending was £7billion, it says.
Prof Glasby said the Tories’ austerity agenda led to a decade of spending cuts, service pressures, and a growing sense of crisis.
‘Not only were these warnings not heeded – but the situation has since got worse,’ he said. ‘When social care for older people is cut to the bone, lives are blighted, distress and pressure increase and the resilience of individuals and their families is ground down. Yet this happens slowly – day by day, week by week, and month by month.
‘It is not sudden, dramatic or hi-tech in the way a crisis in an A&E department may be, and tends to attract less media, political and popular attention. With yet more urgency than in 2010 we warn: doing nothing is not an option.’
The report comes more than a year after Boris Johnson said on the steps of Downing Street that he had a plan to deal with the crisis ‘once and for all’.
Prof Glasby, head of Birmingham University’s school of social policy, said: ‘While the situation is urgent, the human misery caused by this lost decade is not as visible as financial pressures on more prominent, popular and better understood services, such as hospitals or schools.
‘In 2010, we were adamant that doing nothing was not an option. Our 2020 update shows that, without swift government intervention, the adult social care system could quickly become unsustainable.’
Fiona Carragher, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘It is no secret that decades of inaction on social care have created a stretched and overworked system, one that has been pushed to breaking point by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Too often they fall into the gaps between health and social care. We must learn from the pandemic and urge the Government to bridge this divide by building a social care system that is free at the point of use, with costs shared across society.’
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We know that there is a need for a long-term solution for social care, and will bring forward a plan that puts the sector on a sustainable footing to ensure the reforms will last long into the future.’