Yorkshire’s population is being split by an age schism that runs far deeper than the traditional divide between town and country, experts have warned.
Along with parts of the rest of Britain, the region is said to be balanced on a “demographic tipping point” that will lead to inequalities in housing and social care if the issue is not addressed by the next government.
The Resolution Foundation, an independent research body focused on economic and social policy, calls for urgent action to address what it says are inequalities in the current system of funding care for an ageing population.
Torsten Bell, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “The level of unfairness in the system at the moment is a disgrace.
“Lots of people who need care are not getting it, while others are having to run down all their assets in order to pay for it.
“As we head into the 2020s we will enter a decade in which we really do see a big increase in the pensioner population relative to the working age population, and we’re going to have to have answers.”
The foundation’s latest report highlights the country’s increasing age profile, warning that “although it may feel like ageing has been on the agenda for a while, we are now at a demographic tipping point and our big transition into old age is only just beginning.”
It says that although the average age in Yorkshire is 40, about the same as the national figure, there are huge variations within the county. In Richmondshire, in the Yorkshire Dales, the proportion of the population over 65 has risen from 15 per cent in 2001, to 21 per cent today. At the same time, the proportion aged under 16 has fallen from 20 to 17 per cent.
But Mr Bell said that although rural areas were ageing faster on average, it was “too simplistic” to plot the age gap on geographic lines.
“We can’t just couch it in terms of old, left-behind places versus young, strong-economy places,” he said.
The foundation warns that new retirees need “clarity” on the level of contributions they will be expected to make towards their own social care.
It also says the country needs “a bigger pooled risk so that nobody has to face huge costs”.
Mr Bell said: “Everyone may have to pay a little bit, but funding cannot be based just on what an area can afford to spend. It should also be based on the need in that local area.”
At a conference on social care in York yesterday, a campaigner held aloft cardboard cutouts of the three main party leaders, who had declined invitations to attend. Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, said the sector was “in crisis” and demanded pledges on reform.