Warning of 'care crisis' for elderly
THE future plight of the increasing number of elderly people living in Essex will be raised for debate in Parliament today.Lord Hanningfield, who will this afternoon propose a motion in the House of Lords highlighting the issue, has received cross-party support from council leaders across the country in his call for a revised Government funding system for adult social care.
By Roddy Ashworth
THE future plight of the increasing number of elderly people living in Essex will be raised for debate in Parliament today.
Lord Hanningfield, who will this afternoon propose a motion in the House of Lords highlighting the issue, has received cross-party support from council leaders across the country in his call for a revised Government funding system for adult social care.
It comes as he warned care for the ever-increasing elderly population would be plunged into a “deep crisis” within a matter of years unless action is taken now.
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In an open letter, he was joined by 44 other council leaders calling for a central Government rethink on funding to help meet the rapidly rising demand.
But the Conservative leader of the county council yesterday told the EADT that Essex is particularly susceptible to the costs of providing care for the elderly, as many older people move into the area to retire in coastal towns such as Clacton and Frinton.
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He said: “In Essex we have 10% more over-85-year-olds than we did two years ago.
“We have found ways of resolving the problem so far, but there is a potential crisis.
“If it is not resolved in the next few months, by the time we get to 2007/08 we will have a major problem.
“With modern medicine, people are living longer with various disabilities and often the cost for one individual is quite considerable.
“We need to make sure the Government recognises that and prepares for it.”
Between 1998/99 and 2003/04, the average gross weekly expenditure per person on supporting older people in residential and nursing care - including full cost paying residents - rose by 30.5%.
But the average gross hourly cost for home help and care in Essex increased by 38%, and this year the county council has heard it will receive an increase of just 2.7% in its Whitehall funding.
Meanwhile, the number of people aged 85 and over is anticipated to be by far the fastest growing in the next 20 years. It is also expected that in Essex that number will grow faster than the national average, doubling from 28,800 in 2005 to 53,100 in 2025.
This will mean the increase in demand for social care in Essex will be disproportionately large, with the burden of paying for it falling on the council taxpayer - unless the Government takes action.
Lord Hanningfield said the current funding situation was unsustainable, and warned that other council-provided services were already beginning to suffer as resources were diverted away to meet the cost of adult social care.
He added that Government should address the situation in its 2007 comprehensive spending review, which is currently being prepared and will set out spending priorities until 2011.
Lord Hanningfield's motion, which will go before the House of Lords at 2pm, is “to call attention to the funding of adult social care and the consequences for the rising numbers of elderly people”.
Liberal Democrats in Essex have joined Conservatives at the county council in their call for a new system of funding adult social care.
The Lib Dem leader at County Hall, Mike Mackroy, said: “With added pressure on the funding available for vulnerable and elderly residents, this will inevitably result in support services being dropped for residents with needs less than critical.
“This is not what taxpayers expect from council services. We feel that the situation requires some fresh thinking and new ideas.
“Consequently, we have suggested that the NHS and social care services are so closely linked that joint funding for the two services should be considered as a medium to long term aim.”
Speaking after the Government confirmed the 2.7% increase in central funding for Essex County Council, local government minister Phil Woolas said: “We have provided a stable and predictable funding basis for local services.
“We expect local government to respond positively as far as council tax is concerned.”