Budget 2017: Social care funding crisis is leading to shocking realities for people living with dementia
Ahead of the Spring Budget, the Government must provide sufficient funding to local authorities to relieve pressures on patients and their families, says Alzheimer's Society.
The broken social care system is a dementia issue. Social care budgets have experienced a shocking £4.6billion cut over the last six years and we have seen the number of people able to access state-funded social care drop by a third. Given the number of people with dementia using social care services, it is often they that are hardest hit. Lack of action is already having dire consequences across our communities. Nowhere is this starker than in the area of dementia care. Alzheimer’s Society’s Fix Dementia Care campaign has identified a number of areas where underfunding in social care is leading to shocking realities for people with dementia.
With numbers of people living with dementia set to increase to over 1 million by 2021, the demand for social care is only going to rise.
Social care is a the majority of care that people with dementia receive, and while they may get an initial diagnosis and some medication on the NHS, the symptoms of dementia affect the way people carry out daily activities that we make take for granted, such as washing and dressing.
The social care crisis has an impact on the quality of care that people living with dementia receive, as well as the cost of care that they pay for. Alzheimer’s Society’s submission to the Spring Budget highlights the dangerous disconnect between the cost of delivering care and what is currently paid, and that the social care precept introduced recently does nothing to deal with this.
That’s why Alzheimer’s Society has called on the Government to invest in the current system now to prevent the crisis worsening, and to find a long term funding solution which works now and in the future. They must work with Local Authorities, providers and representatives of social care users to find this solution.
Lack of resource leads to stretched services, corners being cut, and mistakes happening. When it involves the care of someone with dementia, these mistakes can lead to sickness, hospitalisation and even early death. Of the 60% of people with dementia who went into hospital from their own home, only 36% returned there; most of the rest were discharged into residential care (Alzheimer’s Society 2016). We also found more than a third of homecare workers receive no dementia training whatsoever, despite being asked to provide complex care in a lone working environment (Alzheimer’s Society 2016).
There is currently no limit to the costs that families face. This applies to those relying on local authority funded places, who are regularly topping up from their pensions because what the LA can contribute doesn’t cover it. It also applies to those fully funding their care themselves. Alzheimer’s Society frequently hears of individuals spending more than a quarter of a million pounds on their care, renting out or selling their houses after other savings are exhausted, and not having anything to leave in their will to loved ones. This is despite the intention to introduce a cap on care costs in the Care Act in 2014.
Many spend all that they have. This is unacceptable and the Government must do more to prevent this for people affected by dementia, who due to the complex nature of the condition face higher bills anyway.
Any increase in funding is welcome to prevent a worsening crisis, and Alzheimer’s Society is calling on the Government to provide adequate short team funding to relieve pressures in local authorities.
But the reality is that long term challenges posed by the growing numbers of people with dementia needing care will not be solved by a short-term fix. Consensus is needed to develop a solution that has longevity beyond this parliament. We can’t continue to talk about social care without talking about dementia: We need a fair settlement which does not leave the 850,000 people with dementia, and future generations, worried about their care and their future.