It’s not just about money: we can act now to avert a social care crisis
Britain faces a growing social care crisis, but there are things we can do to reduce pressure on care providers.
Our Chief Executive, Anna Dixon, writes that social care is a shared challenge for everyone in society. While more funding is needed, we also need to support people to remain healthier in mid-life, be more physically active as they age, and install home adaptations that enable them to do the things they want to.
It’s a common refrain: Britain faces a growing social care crisis. The worrying thing is that, while many people say there’s a problem, no-one seems to know how to solve it.
In just 15 years, over a million more people will be aged 85 or over. While our longer lives should be celebrated, there’s a catch. A 65-year-old today can expect to spend around a decade suffering from poor health. And a recent study shows that, by 2035, there will be a million over-65s needing round-the-clock care.
If nothing changes, estimates suggest healthcare spending will have to increase by 3.3% every year for 15 years, and social care spending by 3.9%. An extra £15 billion in funding will be required by 2030. And all this just to cover growing demand.
Some financial solutions have been proposed, such as a Care ISA, or using property as collateral to pay for care. The thing is, with many people in the ‘sandwich generation’ struggling financially, approaches focused on encouraging more savings are unlikely to work. While many older people own their home, property values vary across the country, and the number of older private renters is set to increase.
Reducing the pressure
Of course, it’s not all about money. While more funding is needed, there are other things we can do.
For one thing, we can help people to be healthier in mid-life, and address the biggest contributors to ill-health as people age: physical inactivity, poor diet, smoking and alcohol consumption. If people are healthier in their 40s and 50s, they tend to be healthier later on. Healthcare professionals need to promote healthy ageing, and we need stronger regulation on marketing junk food and reducing the sugar and salt we eat.
When people are older, helping them stay active, retain strength and balance and reduce the risk of falls is vital. This can help maintain everyday abilities, such as using the toilet unaided or climbing the stairs.
Preventing ill-health and disability, helping people stay fit and active, and supporting people stay in their homes for longer requires action by the NHS, housing providers and social care – as well as the Government.
Equally important is the role our environment plays in helping us to do the things we want. Our research demonstrates the importance of installing adaptations and improvements like handrails and ramps in people’s homes, so that they can continue to live where they want for longer.
Government needs to make sure there is sufficient funding for aids and adaptations. And local providers must ensure people have speedy access to simple home improvements so that they can stay there for longer.
Social care is a shared challenge for everyone in society. Preventing ill-health and disability, helping people stay fit and active, and supporting people stay in their homes longer requires strong action by the NHS, housing providers and social care – as well as the Government.
An abridged version of this article first appeared in the Daily Express.