Clock is ticking on care crisis

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IT has long been known that the fact that people are living for longer will place an increasing strain on essential services. Yet the pace at which such pressures are being brought to bear is alarming nevertheless.

IT has long been known that the fact that people are living for longer will place an increasing strain on essential services. Yet the pace at which such pressures are being brought to bear is alarming nevertheless.

Research published today by the IPPR think-tank suggests it will take just three years for the number of older people in need of support to outstrip the number of family members able to provide the informal care they need.

At the same time, the retreat by the state from the realm of elderly care, which has seen private providers fill the gap, leaves such individuals at the mercy of fees that currently run to £36,000 a year for a place in a care home.

It is why each year hundreds of thousands of families are forced to sell their homes in order to meet such costs.

It begs the question as to how many of the increasing number of people in need of care will be able to afford it – and whether the public purse will be in a position to cover the costs for those who cannot.

That is unlikely, given that, despite rising demand, the amount spent on social care services for older people has fallen by £1.2bn since 2010. Money has been transferred to local authorities to compensate, but it still leaves a shortfall of some £769m. Solving the mounting care crisis is a conundrum with no straightforward solution.

Yet if older people do not receive the care they need they are destined to end up in A&E units and hospital wards. This will mean that the problem is simply shifted elsewhere, causing distress and disruption for many, without removing any of the financial implications for the country as a whole.

It is why the Government must take action now to strengthen community-based care networks, while acknowledging the invaluable role played by those who care for members of their family by giving them the support which allows them to combine such roles with work. The clock is ticking.

Winds of change

Doubts over bid to keep lights on

THE violence in Ukraine underlines the threat to UK energy security and the danger of the present over-reliance on Russian gas.

Under EU pressure to close oil and coal-fired power stations by 2015, the Government is turning instead to renewable energy sources, yesterday giving the green light to a scheme to burn biomass to generate electricity at Drax power station near Selby.

While this is welcome investment that will help to both secure and create jobs, it is puzzling that at the same time the Department for Energy and Climate Change has performed a u-turn on plans to support a similar conversion at another Drax unit, leading the power company to begin legal action.

It is a similar story at neighbouring Eggborough, another coal-fired power station which has seen its bid to convert to biomass production blocked, leaving it under threat of closure.

This appears to be indicative of an increasing willingness on the part of Energy Secretary Ed Davey to place most of his eggs in one basket – that marked “wind power”.

Yet many question the wisdom of lavishing massive subsidies on this sector when serious doubts remain over its capacity to generate the amount of electricity Britain will need to keep the lights on.

There is another sticking point, too – the fact that the cost of this shift to alternative energy sources is having to be borne by the taxpayer.

It may have been a mild winter, reflected in mercifully lower recent bills, but the prospect of a two per cent hike on future payments is enough to fill the average householder with dread.

A burst of Spring

Flower show gets under way

WIDELY regarded as one of the biggest and most prestigious independent shows in the gardening calendar, the Harrogate Spring Flower Show, which gets under way today, is guaranteed to deliver a welcome burst of colour.

An event that has grown in stature over the years, it will welcome around 100 of the UK’s top nurseries, as well as featuring the work of both established and up-and-coming garden designers and landscapers.

Crucially, the event also does much to nurture smaller, local gardening groups, providing them with a shop window in order to promote their work and recruit new members.

For most visitors, however, the attraction of the show is to marvel at the prowess of their fellow gardeners in achieving such impressive results which they in turn will be inspired to try to match.

Indeed, the mix of awe and envy means that for some showgoers it won’t just be their fingers that are green by the end of it.