William Eichler 25 January 2018

Rural elderly face ‘terrifying’ social care crisis

Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) should be ‘rural proofed’, researchers say as report warns the elderly living in rural parts of the country are facing a ‘terrifying’ social care crisis.

A new report from the community interest company Rural England has found older people living in the countryside face ‘acute’ challenges in terms of home-based social care due to demographics and the high costs of service provision.

Titled Issues Facing Providers of Social Care at Home to Older Residents in Rural England, the report shows those aged 65 and over comprise 20% of the rural population - higher than the 16% of the urban population.

The percentage of the population aged 85 and over, the group most likely to need care, is 3% in rural areas compared to 2% in urban.

When combined with cuts to social care services, this older population places a lot of strain on the budgets of rural local authorities.

These pressures are made worse by the ‘penalty of distance’, the report says.

Rural populations are more dispersed than urban ones and so it is more costly to provide them with the necessary social care services without spending a lot on transport. The lower population density in rural areas also prevents economies of scale.

Rural councils, on average, pay significantly more (13%) than urban councils when commissioning adult social care services. Rural England estimates it’s £15.61 an hour compared to £13.78.

The report is calling for greater focus on rural-proofing in the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans. It says the particular challenges of rural areas have been paid ‘scant regard’.

‘This report highlights worrying evidence about the poor provision of, and access to, home-based social care services for elderly individuals in rural England, which have severe consequences for the health and wellbeing of an increasing number of people in rural communities,’ said Margaret Clark CBE, chair of Rural England’s Stakeholder Group.

‘We urgently need government and service providers, at all levels, to work together to find a solution to the delivery of good quality social care in rural areas and to stave off what will otherwise become a crisis situation. Those living in rural areas deserve better.’

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