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Age UK plea for social care budgets to be protected

Thousands of older people’s lives could be placed at risk if social care budgets are slashed in tomorrow’s Budget, Age UK has warned.

The charity said that a £1.75 billion funding black hole will open up within the next two years if expected government-wide spending cuts are applied to older people’s social care services.

If central government cuts are passed on to local authorities, Age UK says councils would only be able to afford home care services for around 500,000 older people, compared with the one million who are projected to be eligible in 2012 under the criteria used by local authorities today

Michelle Mitchell, charity director for Age UK, said: “Tomorrow, all eyes will be on how the UK government plans to tackle the deficit; however the government must make sure the axe does not fall on the services older people rely on most.

“The chancellor has said he will limit the impact of cuts on the most vulnerable in our society. He should put his money where his mouth is and promise right now that care in old age will be protected in his spending review.”

Research for Age UK undertaken by the London School for Economics and the University of Kent shows that the number of older people in need of care services receiving no support at all would rise to almost one million.

The fear is that cuts would mainly hit older people who live independently in their own homes, since councils would have no option but to continue supporting the most disabled people who live in care homes.

Mitchell concluded with a dire warning: “Our care system is in utter crisis – it’s already starved of funding, service provision is patchy and when people do receive help, it is often of poor quality.  If ministers introduce cuts which deny support to half the older people assessed as needing care at home, quite simply, lives will be put at risk.”

Age UK’s plea comes in the wake of a determined campaign by BASW on behalf of frontline services more widely. BASW chair Fran Fuller has written to the prime minister urging him to spare social services from cuts that would significantly impact on vulnerable service users.