The care older people receive increasingly depends on where they live and their wealth rather than their needs, according to a new think-tank report.
The study from The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust, Social care for older people, found that six consecutive years of cuts to local authority budgets has seen 26% fewer people get social care help.
The report found that these cuts along with a rising demand for services and shortages of staff have left the social care system increasingly unable to meet the needs of the older people.
This is placing an “unacceptable burden” on unpaid carers and is leaving rising numbers of older people without any support at all, the report found.
Evidence presented in the report suggests that reductions in fees paid by local authorities and other cost pressures such as the National Living Wage are squeezing the incomes of residential and home care providers.
It warns that an increasing number are likely to leave the market or go out of business as a result, potentially leaving older people without the care they depend on.
The squeeze on care provider budgets is also prompting some providers in affluent areas to step back from providing care for people funded by local authorities.
The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust researchers expect the funding gap in the social care system to reach at least £2.8 billion by 2019/20 as public spending on adult social care shrinks to less than 1% of GDP.
Amanda Cheesley, professional lead on long term conditions and end of life care, said: “Until social care sees real, sustained investment, far too many older people will be stuck in the revolving door of hospital admission, declining health and reduced independence.
“There is no part of health and social care that is not affected by this failure – it needs tackling now to meet the needs of older people and the increasing demands of the future.”
Ruth Thorlby, deputy director of policy at the Nuffield Trust, said: “No one can predict whether they will have care needs later in life. But if they do find they need help with the basics – eating, washing, going to the toilet – most will discover that unlike a health problem where care is free, they somehow have to manage themselves.
She added: “The number of older people needing care is increasing and yet we are continuing to put less money in. Unmet need is rising, providers are threatening to pull out of contracts, the wellbeing of carers is deteriorating, access to care is getting worse.”