Action call over 'age timebomb'

MINISTERS have been urged to get a grip on the "age timebomb" facing the country – at the same time as they delayed a decision about setting up a new national care service.

The free service will provide care for those elderly and disabled people who need it.

Demand is expected to soar in coming decades, with predictions that over the next 20 years, 1.7 million more people will have a care need than do today.

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In Yorkshire, by 2030 there will be nearly 1.1 million over-65s and more than 210,000 people aged over 85 – almost double the current number.

About 85 per cent of women aged 65 today and 68 per cent of men aged 65 today can expect to need support at some point, while one in three women and one in five men will need care in a residential home.

But as it stands by 2026, it is calculated about 400,000 over- 65s with high needs will not be getting the kind of care they require.

There is no argument that changes are needed to create a system under which the elderly and disabled can be guaranteed high-standard care without often crippling costs which can reach as much as 200,000 for someone with dementia.

Debate has raged over how to pay for it. A so-called "death tax" on estates totalling as much as 20,000 has been backed by a number of charities, but this has been vigorously opposed by the Conservatives and Labour yesterday backed away from it as it announced a national commission to look at funding and it will not now go ahead until 2016 at the earliest

Campaign group Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: "The Government has finally realised the massive ageing timebomb facing the UK.

"This announcement rightly places the spotlight on the need for funding and patient information, however, kicking it into the long grass isn't good enough," he said.

The Government needs to realise the urgency for millions of people and just get on with it."

Chief executive of Carers UK, Imelda Redmond, said a cross-party commission was the best way to overcome "political point-scoring on these issues".

But she added: "The promised commission on funding must be brought forward as a matter of urgency, to deliver on the specifics, and give families confidence that the sort of care system they need will become a reality."

National Pensioners' Convention general secretary Dot Gibson said 2016 would be too late for many older people and carers.

"Social care in Britain has been in crisis for decades, but many older people and their families will not be able to wait until 2016 before they get any help," she said.

"We must do more and faster to give financial help to the army of carers, improve the regulation and standards of care provided and ensure care staff are properly trained and paid for looking after our loved ones."

David Congdon, Mencap's head of campaigns and policy, said the needs of adults with disabilities were being sidelined due to the focus on the elderly.

He added: "We are concerned that at this stage there is still no sustainable, long-term funding plan for social care – even after two consultations."