Waiting for social care packages leads to 50,000 deaths, charity claims

Age UK urges government to publish green paper
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK charity director

More than 50,000 older people have died waiting for care packages during the 700 days since the government first said it would publish a social care green paper, Age UK has claimed.

Chancellor Philip Hammond first announced the intention to produce the paper during his Spring Budget in 2017.

Using NHS Digital data, the charity said 28,170 older people, aged 65 and over, died before social care services could be provided between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 – an average of 77 people a day.

If this average remained throughout the 700 days between 8 March 2017 and today (6 February 2019), Age UK estimates there were 54,025 deaths among people waiting for a care package.

Over the same period, 626,701 have had their requests for social care refused by their council, and 7,240 older people have used all their savings because of their care bills, leaving them reliant on the state.

The charity said the statistics demonstrated the need for reform sooner rather than later.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK charity director, said: ‘We fully accept that the government has had many crucial issues to deal with over the last 700 days, but if it’s your mum or dad, husband or wife who is profoundly unwell and who badly needs more support there is nothing more important to you in the world.

‘As it is, more than 50,000 older people and their families have been let down when many of them needed help the most. Sadly, it seems inevitable that more will join them unless and until the government grips this issue and gets on with the process of reforming social care and giving it the funding it needs.’

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board chairman, said: ‘The current system of social care is unsustainable and will buckle under the weight of demand. With people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, adult social care is at breaking point. This is something that the government must address in its green paper on social care and in the forthcoming spending review.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to ensuring everyone has access to the care and support they need and have provided local authorities with access to up to £3.6bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year and up to £3.9bn for next year to help meet people’s needs.

‘We are determined to make social care sustainable for the future and will publish our proposals in a green paper shortly.’