The Office for National Statistics projects that the number of people in England aged 85 or over will increase from 1.24 million in 2013 to 2.3 million by 2030. This age group is also the most likely to have some form of disability. A glance at just some of the announcements made in the last two weeks alone tells us that demographic change is creeping back onto the public agenda. The question on everyone's lips: Are we prepared? The answer: No.
Last week started with the highly anticipated reading of the Care Bill - a bill shouldering the burden of providing the most significant reforms to social care funding in several decades. Quick to keep the debate moving, the NAO overview of Adult Social Care report warned that the social care system needed to embrace radical change, pointing out that the Government does not know if the care system, already pushed beyond its limits, can continue to absorb the pressure put on it by demographic change.
The recent Future Care Workforce report from Anchor and the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK) found that, to meet the care needs of the soaring numbers of older people, a staggering 40 per cent of the projected increase in England's working age population will need to enter the care profession by 2025. All of this came before the anniversary of the Lord's Select Committee Report, Ready For ageing? which campaigners used a platform to highlight the plight of caring for increasing numbers of older people.
But whose job will it be to make much needed changes happen to meet the demands of our ageing population? Who exactly should we be directing these requests to? Without clear responsibility, the worry is that calls from campaigners for older people will fall on deaf ears, or at best on ears that are just too busy with the day job to listen.
At Anchor, we are still campaigning for Government to take a joined-up approach to planning for demographic change, by appointing a dedicated Minister for Older People. More than 137,000 people signed the 'Grey Pride' petition and, in June 2012, MPs voted in favour of a motion calling on the Government to consider making such an appointment, but there's still been no action taken by David Cameron.
When discussing the Care Bill, Paul Burstow MP called for an Older People's Commissioner. Similarly to the role of a Minister - albeit with less power- a Commissioner would help to ensure we give older people a voice and, importantly, listen to them; champion their vital contribution to society, challenge stereotypes and hold public services to account. This approach would also benefit the country's future older generations.
This is an important first step but a Commissioner's influence will be limited. It is my belief that without one person in Cabinet to take responsibility for all the areas impacted by demographic change, no real progress can be made. It's time to create a role that will join up departments and enable a holistic approach to planning. But who will step up to the plate? The challenge sits firmly with Mr Cameron to make an appointment. It's not one for the faint hearted, but it's a role of significant importance, and a responsibility that will only grow as we continue to strive for happy living for the years ahead.