QualityWatch: Focus on social care for older people

Reductions in adult social services for older people in England

March 2014

Sharif Ismail
Holly Holder
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Key points

  • Between 2009/10 and 2012/13 spending on social care for older people fell by 15 per cent in real terms from £10.6 billion to £9.8 billion.
  • Almost a quarter of a million fewer older people received publicly funded community services in financial years 2012/13 compared to 2009/10, a 26 per cent drop. 
  • Home and day care spending by councils fell by 23 per cent (or £538 million) over the same period.
  • The number of older people receiving home-delivered meals has more than halved since 2009/10.
  • Transfers of money from the NHS to adult social care have more than doubled since 2009/10. Without these, service cuts in social care could have been even more drastic.

This report from our QualityWatch programme, in partnership with the Nuffield Trust, examines the scale and scope of cuts to social services for older people in England from 2009/10 to 2012/13.

The report tracks a period of real-terms reductions in government revenue allocations to local authorities, who provide publicly-funded social care.

The research reveals that most local authorities are tightly rationing social care for the over-65s in response to cuts, resulting in significant drops in the number of people receiving services.

The study seeks to assess the impact of social care cuts on the health and well-being of older people and their carers, but finds that, due to a lack of available data, it is not possible to quantify this.

Holly Holder, Fellow in Health Policy at the Nuffield Trust and joint report author said:

'Our analysis paints a picture of increased rationing of social care in response to deep cuts from central Government, despite the growing numbers of older people in the population. It is highly likely that this is having a negative effect on older people’s health and wellbeing and that of their carers, but without adequate data to assess this impact, the NHS and Government are flying blind.'

QualityWatch is a major research programme from the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, providing independent scrutiny into how the quality of health and social care is changing over time. For further resources and analysis from this programme of work, visit the dedicated QualityWatch website.

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