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Number of older people needing care set to rise to 1.2 million by 2040

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Elderly man

Elderly man

The number of older people needing community or residential care will rise to 1.2 million by 2040 - almost double the 2015 rate - according to a government commissioned report. 

The cost will increase by 159% up from £7.2 billion in 2015 to £18.7 billion in 2040, taking a greater share of the nation’s wealth, from 0.45% to 0.75% of GDP.

The analysis - Projections of Demand and Expenditure on Adult Social Care 2015 to 2040 - was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care. It was put together by the Policy Research Unit in Economics of Health and Social Care Systems at the University of York, LSE and University of Kent.

It uses Office for National Statistics figures showing that the population aged 65 or over will rise from 9.7 million in 2015 to 14.9 million in 2040. The population aged 85 and over will rise even more rapidly - from 1.3 million in 2015 to 2.7 million in 2040, a rise of 109%.

The number of older people in local authority funded residential care will need to rise by 67%, from 157,000 in 2015 to 262,000 in 2040 to keep pace with these changes, the report predicts.

The number of privately funded residents is projected to rise even more - up by 87%. The main reason for this difference is the higher proportion of older people who own their own home and who are generally ineligible for local authority support.

However, the number of younger adults with mental health needs in supported residential and nursing care is projected to decrease by 6.9% between 2015 and 2040. The reason for this decrease is that the number of care home residents with mental health needs fell substantially between March 2016 and March 2017, the authors say.

”Our projections of demand for social care show unless there is a substantial decline in disability rates in old age the number of people needing care will rise greatly over the next 25 years”

Raphael Wittenberg

The cost projections use constant 2015 prices and a set of base case assumptions about trends in the drivers of long-term care demand and in the unit costs of care services, the report states. The authors urged caution: “These base case projections are sensitive to assumptions about future trends in mortality and disability rates and in the real unit costs of care.”

The report’s lead author Raphael ­Wittenberg, of the LSE, said: “Our projections of demand for social care show unless there is a substantial decline in disability rates in old age the number of people needing care will rise greatly over the next 25 years.”

A consensus appears to be emerging on future social care pressures. Last month a report from the Lancet Public Health predicted that the overall numbers of over-65s requiring 24-hour care would rise by more than a third to over one million in 2035.

The Local Government Association said action to increase funding for social care was urgently needed.

“With people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, adult social care is at breaking point,” said Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

“Over recent years, councils have protected adult social care relative to other services. But the scale of the overall funding picture for local government as a whole means adult social care services still face a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care.” The consequences of that were likely to be an increasing number of people unable to get reliable care, he said.

“Action is needed, which is why, following government’s decision to delay its green paper on adult social care, the LGA has published its own green paper consultation to drive forward the debate,” he added.

Labour’s shadow minister for social care Barbara Keeley said: “England’s hollowed out social care system is already close to collapse. Councils who provide care are facing bankruptcy, nearly half a million fewer people are getting publicly funded care than in 2010 and over one million older people are going without any care at all.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressure on social care as our population ages and have provided local authorities with access to £9.4 billion in dedicated social care funding over three years. In the autumn, we’ll set out our plans to reform the social care system, including funding, to make it sustainable for the future.”

The new report is available online.

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