Elderly suffer as forgotten victims of recession

Pensioners in Yorkshire are facing a care crisis as councils further cut their budgets – stoking fears that older people are the recession’s forgotten victims.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned the country is dealing with a “ticking time bomb” as local authorities shave an average of 2.5 per cent off adult care spending, leaving many older people without vital help for dressing, washing or shopping.

The picture in Yorkshire looks bleaker still with York and Barnsley saying their spending on older people – which covers residential care and home help – will fall by about 5 per cent, while North Yorkshire will cut its budget by about 3 per cent.

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Spending on community support – which helps cover essentials such as cleaning and shopping – will also fall in some local authorities.

Leeds City Council has said its budget will be 5 per cent less, while York council is to consult on whether to make it harder for pensioners to qualify for care.

Such cuts come as pensioners are hit by rising food and energy costs. According to a study by charity Consumer Credit Counselling Service, demand for debt advice from the over-60s is up by 15 per cent in three years.

Age UK, which has warned that many older people have to choose between heating their homes or eating, is also raising concerns over councils being forced to implement tougher criteria for financial help because of the cuts.

In North Yorkshire, the number of older people receiving community-based services in 2011 fell by almost 18 per cent compared with 2010, despite the rising elderly population. This year, the local authority is serving still fewer people in the community, although the council said the falling number was mainly due to a successful programme helping people cope at home without help.

Care can cost between £15-£25 an hour from independent agencies. In Barnsley, fees for those over the means-tested threshold went up by a third last year.

Jane Farquharson, of Age UK Knaresborough, said: “If it was a child in this situation there would be a public outcry but because it’s an older person, they simply don’t get the same level of focus.

“Unless people’s needs are fairly great and varied we find they don’t get offered little bits of services. On a fixed income how do you cover care costs? The sums just don’t add up.”

Mike Padgham, UK Homecare Association chairman and owner of Scarborough care agency Twenty Four 7 Care Services, says the problem is bigger than funding, adding: “There are celebrities jumping up and down about libraries closing but young is viewed as good, old is bad.”

Last year, many Yorkshire authorities substantially cut their adult and social care budgets.

In Sheffield, spending on residential care for older people in 2011 was down by 20 per cent. In Leeds spending on community support was about 20 per cent less.

An LGA spokesman said cuts of 2.5 per cent more are due this year, adding: “Politicians need to transcend political point-scoring and wake up to the ticking time bomb this country is facing.”

A Department of Health spokesman said during the 2010 Spending Review the government allocated an extra £7.2bn to the system for the four years to 2014/15.

A Leeds Council spokesman said extra NHS cash had helped extend community care in the city.

Special Report: Section 1; Page 8 and Comment: Section 1; Page 16.