Our social care system is 'under siege' as it is faced with too much demand and too little supply, according to an Age UK report on how older people increasingly have to battle for care.

The report found that in the last 12 months 51% of requests for formal care and support (700,000) had been turned down. This is equivalent to 2,000 claims from older people being unsuccessful each day, or 80 every hour.

In some of these cases the older person was found by their council not to meet the eligibility criteria set for the social care system and that was the end of it (23% of all requests for help); while in others the older person was found ineligible but their council then referred them onto other services in the hope that they could assist, including their local Age UK (46% of all requests for help). 

The Charity says that these figures show how very difficult it is now to qualify for care within our shrunken social care system: between 2010/11 and 2018/19 total spending on adult social care fell by £86 million in real terms, representing a 4% reduction in local authority spending.

Older people asking for help are being turned away

While spending has now largely recovered from its lowest point in 2014/15, the older and disabled population has meanwhile significantly increased, meaning social care spending per head of the adult population has fallen by 6% per person over the same time period. Because councils are so stretched it is very concerning but not at all surprising that so many older people who are asking for help are being turned away.

Age UK’s new analysis also helps to explain why the numbers of older people living with some unmet need for care are so high and continuing to rise: 1.5 million over 65s in England are going without all the help they need to carry out at least one essential ‘Activity of Daily Living’. 

In ‘Behind the Headlines: Battling to get care’, Age UK describes how the social care system as being “woefully inadequate for the job now required of it, despite the best efforts of the good people working in it.”

Over a fifth of all the calls to Age UK’s information and advice line concern social care, a figure approaching 35,000 last year. The report draws on the content of these calls and recounts the very difficult experiences older people and their families are going through as they try to secure the help with everyday tasks like washing, eating and toileting they badly need. 

Good social care helps to keep older people fit and well

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's charity director said: “The fact that 2,000 older people are being turned down for care every day demonstrates both the enormous numbers impacted by our ramshackle care system, and how serious the problems it faces have now become. We don’t know what happens to these older people whose applications are rejected but inevitably some have no choice but to struggle on alone. Good social care helps to keep older people fit and well, so if you are forced to go without it’s a recipe for emerging health problems to turn into crises, possibly leading to a hospital stay that might otherwise have been avoided and a decline in your health from which you may never fully recover.”

“Faced with too much demand and too little supply, our social care system is effectively under siege. Councils do their best with the resources they have but there are simply not enough to go round. One result is this vast number of older people whose applications for help are rejected and another the long waits for an assessment to have your case looked into at all. Our report is heart-rending stories of older people in need who are being comprehensively let down, and the nightmarish situations created for them and their families. Real suffering is going on, with older people’s lives being diminished and, in some cases we fear, being cut short.”

“The Prime Minister has promised to fix social care and our new report shows why it’s so vital for our older population that he keeps his word. For some, tragically, it is already too late.”