New analysis finds 2.6m people over 50 have unmet care needs

New analysis by Age UK for the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) has found that 2.6 million people aged 50 and over are living with some form of unmet need for care in England.

This is the best estimate so far produced for the numbers of people in midlife, as well as above State Pension Age, who require assistance with one or more activities of daily living, like washing and eating.  

The 2.5 million over-50s in this position are equivalent to 12%, or one in eight, of the over-50 population in this country.  

Age UK calculated the figure by analysing data from wave nine of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, and scaling it up to the population of England using data from the 2021 Census.

The CSA is calling for an urgent cash injection to address the increasing pressures on the care system caused by a shortage of money and staff. Social care is chronically underfunded and many local councils struggle to meet the care needs of their communities.

An ageing population and growing numbers of working-age disabled people mean problems are escalating, with central government funding not keeping pace with the consequent growing demand for care. The pandemic has made an already bad situation even worse. 

The data from Age UK and the CSA show that of those with an unmet need for care:  

  • 70% (1.8 million) have difficulty dressing          
  • 18% (450,000) have difficulty walking across a room 
  • 47% (1.2 million) have difficulty bathing or showering 
  • 12% (320,000) have difficulty eating 
  • 36% (930,000) have difficulty getting in and out of bed 
  • 23% (600,000) have difficulty using the toilet 
  • 21% (540,000) are often lonely, compared to 6% of people who have no need for care and 12% of people who have a need for care which is met 

7% of people in their 50s have an unmet need for care, rising to 12% of those in their 60s, 15% in their 70s, and 21% in their 80s and older.

Councils are facing severe financial pressures due to a long term lack of funding from central government. Social care providers face increased costs, and skilled, low-paid carers are leaving the profession in droves, often to work in retail or the NHS, where terms and conditions are more favourable.

At the same time, people who need care are paying more but often receiving less – some have had their care packages reduced or cut altogether, and thousands of others are still waiting to be assessed by their local council.  

The CSA warned that the reforms that Boris Johnson announced as Prime Minister in September 2020 will not fulfil the promise he made to ‘fix social care’ as they do not improve the quality and availability of care. Instead, his reforms focus on subsidising the cost of care for some people who pay for their own services, especially if they need them for a long time – a good thing to do but not nearly enough on its own.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK and Co-Chair of the CSA, said: ‘To have as many as two and half million over-50s now living with some unmet need for care is truly astonishing, and it shows how far below an acceptable level of operation our social care services have been allowed to fall. This number is equivalent to one in eight of the entire same age population, and the lack of support must be having a huge impact on all these people’s ability to live a normal life and participate in and contribute to our society.’

Photo by Tatiana P


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