Region’s elderly facing ‘perfect storm’

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SOARING care charges, cuts to key services and the closure of long-established care facilities are creating a perfect storm for elderly and vulnerable people, as social services budgets are cut by Yorkshire’s local authorities.

A hard-hitting report by Age UK North Yorkshire and Harrogate CVS, compiled over the summer, highlights the impact on older people of cuts to a wealth of vital services including public transport, social support, home care, meal deliveries and libraries.

“Many people are reporting that they have difficulties accessing services,” the report states. “Isolation, loneliness and depression are increasing... This is causing an adverse impact on physical and mental health.

“Overall, the concern is the risk of increasing numbers of vulnerable older people slipping through the net provided by both the local authority and the voluntary and community sector.”

Those who are already receiving care services also face new difficulties. Many councils have been forced to increase the amount they charge for social care as they battle to raise extra funds.

Val Holland, a Barnsley pensioner suffering from cerebral palsy, recently complained her monthly care bill has risen from £32 to £84

Other councils are undertaking tough new needs assessments of elderly residents to see if they could manage on reduced care.

“A lot of people have been reassessed and had their packages of care either removed or reduced,” said Alex Bird, chief officer for Age UK North Yorkshire. “This can be very distressing.”

Not all of the news since March’s cost-cutting budgets were agreed has been bleak, however. In some parts of the region, the most controversial cuts to social care have been reversed.

In an unprecedented move, Kirklees Council had planned to withdraw all support for people it accepted had “substantial” care needs. But after residents threatened High Court action, the council reversed its decision in May.

“It was a massive relief,” said Jen Booth, a Huddersfield pensioner whose disabled son Anthony, 31, requires round-the-clock care. “We fought so hard for this.”

In Hull, Lib Dem plans to close six day centres and two care homes were reversed when Labour was voted into power in the May local elections. “We felt we had to save these services,” said new council leader Steve Brady.

But other areas have not been so fortunate. In Leeds, the council has confirmed plans to close five care homes, while Doncaster Council has ended its warden support service, replacing it with a long-distance “telecare” service.

One man recently blamed the death of his elderly father on the removal of the warden service.

Gary Wilson of Age UK Doncaster said that the pressures councils are under are severe, but added: “It is clear the loss of direct personal contact will have a negative impact on vulnerable people.”