For the first time ever, 2017 is set to see more elderly people requiring care and support, than there are families to provide it. This is topped by an ageing population and a rapidly rising life expectancy, placing greater demands on care services across the country.
At the end of last month, Care Minister David Mowat stated that there is an essential need to rethink how society can deal with the care of an increasingly ageing population. He suggested that the solution to the care gap could be answered if more people in Britain looked after their own elderly parents.
Speaking at the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee, Mr Mowat played on the fact that it is simply a given responsibility that parents care for their children, yet the same approach is not taken when it comes to the reverse - children caring for their parents.
The approach proposed by Mr Mowat does not account for the already 1 million people aged over 65 living in the UK who do not have adult children that could care for them. Nor does it account for the astonishing fact that 92% of informal care is already being provided by families.
Demand for social care is increasingly rising, which will inevitably require the UK to spend a higher proportion of its income on supporting elderly people. Care home providers, trade unions and charities have long been calling on the government to deal with the immense challenge of paying for health and social care and the rapidly escalating social care crisis.
Care homes across the country are subsequently struggling and an increasing amount of care home operators are collapsing. Cuts in costs are threatening to compromise the quality of care being delivered, as well as increasing the costs for private, fee-paying residents. Following budget cuts of up to 50%, reductions in the amount that councils pay towards residents' fees has been intensified by simultaneously rising industry costs.
The rise in National Minimum Wage, for example, led to increasing payroll costs of around 5% for businesses last year. Additionally, residents paying privately are experiencing increased fees or top-up payments to make up the shortfall in state funding, a gap which is calculated to be £1.9bn in 2017 alone, according to the Nuffield Trust. Age UK research also indicates that the number of residents paying their own costs, as a result of cuts, has risen 28.5% in the last decade.
Care homes provide residents with boundless opportunities and families with a much needed peace of mind so that they are able to focus on caring and supporting their loved ones in a way they know best, alongside the expert care delivered by staff members.
There is so much choice on offer when it comes to selecting care providers, care delivery options and invaluable specialist care approaches. Yet, social care continues to be at the tipping point of a crisis. The Local Government Association has stated that an extra £2.6 billion is needed by the end of the decade to avoid the devastating cuts.
The government must provide the funding relief so desperately needed in the sector, to ensure that the elderly can receive the care they need, and hugely deserve. With 430,000 people in care homes and more than 11 million people aged 65 or over in the UK, solutions to this crisis must be addressed by the government immediately.