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The government must substantially invest in the social care system to avert the risk of its “total collapse” in parts of the country, a charity has warned.
Age UK said health and social care services were operating in a “perfect storm of limited financial resources, significant workforce challenges, and increasingly complex population needs”.
In a new report, Health and Care of Older People in England 2019, the charity said that social care remained stuck in “purgatory” while demand rose daily.
It urged Sajid Javid, the chancellor, to allocate a significant sum to local authorities in the spending review next week as an “essential first step”.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said government intervention was imperative to stop the system’s “spiralling decline”.
Ms Abrahams said: “When you strip out the complexity the story is really very simple: Demand is going up but funding and supply are going down, leaving increasing numbers of older people to fend for themselves, rely on loved ones if that’s an option for them, or pay through the nose via a hefty stealth tax without which many care homes would not stay afloat.
“Things are so bad in some places that it is becoming impossible to source care, however much money you have.
“Certainly, the idea that there will always be a care home or home care agency able to help you in your neighbourhood is increasingly out of date.
“Yet millions of older and disabled people depend on social care to stay safe and well and live their lives on their own terms, and when good care is available it makes a fantastic difference.
“There are genuine worries that as we look into next year we are seeing the prospect of total system collapse in the worst-affected areas.”
Around two thirds of recipients of care provided or arranged by local authorities are older people, Age UK said.
Reductions in local authority funding have led to an increased reliance on cash from the NHS and means-tested contributions from clients, the charity added.
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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We have given local authorities access to nearly £4bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year, and a further £410m is available for adults and children’s services.
“The prime minister is committed to fixing the social care system and we will outline proposals in due course.”