Urgent support needed for underfunded local authorities to improve social care

New research conducted by a leading older people’s charity has laid bare the difficulties elderly people are facing when attempting to understand the care system.

Independent Age, a charity dedicated to helping to building a better future for older people, have warned that complexities in the social care system, and difficulties accessing advice and information from local councils in England are causing added distress to people in need of care.  

person showing both hands with make a change note and coins

According to new research announced today, many older people and their families are not getting adequate advice on how to access social care. The charity, which was established in 2005, is now calling on the government to provide funding to local authorities so they can deliver their statutory duties.

To conduct their research, Independent Age analysed insights from calls to their helpline and set up in-depth interviews with members of the public and social workers to ask about the sector.

The charity discovered, almost four in five people in England (78%) know little to nothing on how paying for social care services works and fewer than 9% of respondents recalled seeing information in their community about how the social care system works.

After discovering these shocking statistics, Independent Age has introduced a set of recommendations for government and local authorities based on insights from calls to their helpline. These include best practice principles for local authorities, designed to make information on social care more accessible to the public.

The recommendations also come after a new YouGov polling, commissioned by the charity, revealed that among those who tried to contact someone at the council to seek advice about social care, 50% said they found it difficult to reach the person they needed.

Amanda, who was interviewed as part of the research, told the charity about her experience with her local council. She said: ‘Someone needs to just make it a bit more straightforward really and [say], ‘this is what you need to do’.

‘Even if it’s just an easy to read, easy to understand [version]. Because a lot of the sites that you read it’s all in solicitor speak, if you will.’

Morgan Vine, Head of Policy and Influencing for Independent Age, said: ‘Most people need to access care at a time of real crisis for them personally or someone they are close to. There is a risk that people in later life in this situation will be failed if they aren’t able to access information and advice when they need it.

‘Many people Independent Age speaks to face similar difficulties around accessing or understanding the information provided, across different local authorities. It is essential this changes.

‘We recognise that local authorities across the country face severe financial pressures, huge staffing shortages, and many other significant challenges, but our research shows that there are improvements that can be made.’

Independent Age has echoed the Local Government Association’s call to invest £13bn into adult social care, which was announced in September, as well as recommend that a national Older People’s Commissioner be appointed to give older people an independent voice at the heart of the government.

In addition to Independent Age calling on the government to provide more funding into social care, other authorities involved in the sector have been calling on Jeremy Hunt to reconsider his ideas to delay the social care cap, which was announced last month.

Photo by Katt Yukawa


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