Elderly ‘will soon outnumber carers’

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The number of older people in need of care is expected to outstrip the number of family members able to provide informal care for the first time in 2017, according to a new report

The report, from think tank IPPR, also says the average annual cost for an older person who pays for a typical package of care has increased to £7,900 a year, an average £25,000 for home care and an average £36,000 for a nursing home. By 2030, an estimated 230,000 older people in England who need care of more than twenty hours a week could be left without family to help, according to IPPR. The report says the number of people aged 65 and over without children to care for them will almost double before the end of the next decade and by 2030 there will be more than two million people in England without a child to care for them.

It calls for a fresh approach, including new neighbourhood networks to provide extra help to ease pressure on the NHS and social care. Other recommendations including housing public services for different age groups under one roof to bring generations together and stronger employment rights for those caring for people who need more than 20 hours of care a week, to make it easier for family members to combine work and care.

Clare McNeil, IPPR Senior Research Fellow, said: “The supply of unpaid care to older people with support needs by their adult children will not keep pace with future demand. Thousands of people in their 60s and 70s today could be left to cope on their own when they need care in the future, with overstretched services unable to make up the shortfall.

“Britain needs to build new community institutions capable of sustaining us through the changes ahead and to adapt the social structures already in place, such as family and care, public services, the workplace and neighbourhoods.”

But a leading charity warned that enhanced community support was largely only suitable for those with modest care needs and could not replace well-funded and resourced social care.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Most care is currently provided by family members, many of whom are older themselves and who make big sacrifices to support those they love.

“The report argues for ‘new community institutions’ to step in and fill the gap resulting from declining numbers of family carers, but although this approach is welcome it is really only suitable for people who need modest amounts of support.

“It is not enough for older people who have more pronounced needs arising from multiple long term conditions or dementia. Above all, these more vulnerable older people need consistent, reliable, high quality social care.

“Community support can supplement but cannot substitute for a properly funded system of social care.

“Unfortunately there is no avoiding the need to find a sustainable way of plugging the social care funding gap that is growing bigger every day.”