Local authority leaders have called on the Government to use the upcoming Spending Review to ensure that council-run services are able to look after elderly residents who have been impacted by COVID-19.
The call comes in response to the publication of Centre for Ageing Better’s State of Ageing in 2020 report, which found that the pervasiveness of poor health, unsafe and low-quality housing, and a lack of social connections before the pandemic has exacerbated the impact of the coronavirus on the elderly.
The report warns that the impact of this will be felt more sharply across society in the next 20 years, as greater numbers of people reach their 60s, 70s and 80s.
‘If the current trajectory is allowed to continue, the gap between those who are able to enjoy later life and those who struggle through it will be even wider for future generations than it is for the present one – with grave consequences for society,’ the report summary reads.
Responding to the study, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community Wellbeing Board, commented: ‘Councils play a crucial role in improving and maintaining their residents’ health and wellbeing, including for older people.
‘During this incredibly difficult period, councils want to continue doing all they can to ensure our older people have access to the health and care services, housing, employment and other support they need, including to address loneliness and social isolation.
‘We need a new national focus on helping everyone stay well, physically and mentally, including those affected by COVID-19. The upcoming Spending Review is an opportunity for Government to invest in these valued council-run services, to meet existing, new and unmet demand caused by the pandemic.’
Simon Hewett-Avison, director of services at Independent Age, echoed the findings of the report when he noted that COVID-19 had ‘highlighted and accentuated many of the challenges and inequalities that already existed for people in later life in the UK.’
‘Older people have faced a range of barriers when trying to maintain their physical and mental health during this crisis,’ he said.
‘At Independent Age, over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people calling our helpline feeling isolated and looking for social and emotional support during the pandemic.
‘We’ve also heard from people who had routine health appointments cancelled and felt their physical health was impacted as a result, as well as those who were concerned about the safety of attending their appointments and the risks travelling presented. Some also had difficulty getting through to their GP and pharmacy.
‘The State of Ageing in 2020 is a stark reminder that without urgent action, health and social inequalities will continue to grow among the UK’s older people. It’s critical that government, local authorities and health bodies work together to ensure that older people are given the opportunity to live dignified and fulfilled later lives.’