Austin Macauley 24 April 2014

Think tank warns those with care needs will outstrip family carers by 2017

The UK needs to build new community networks and radically reshape local services if it is to meet the future care needs of older people, a new report has warned.

By 2017 there will be more older people with care needs than there are family members available to provide informal support. The number of people over 65 without children to care for them – should they need it – will double before the end of the decade.

The report, by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank, said costs of paid-for care were rising but that relying on relatives to provide increasing levels of unpaid care was unsustainable.

There should be investment in local public health budgets to strengthen community groups in local authority areas where community-based care is weak, it said. Creating neighbourhood networks for older people to give and receive support – similar to those set up in Leeds – would reduce isolation and relieve pressure on the NHS and local social care provision.

But the UK also needs to learn from innovation around the world, it said, such as housing public services for different age groups under one roof, as seen in Germany. Clare McNeil, senior research fellow at the IPPR, said: ‘The supply of unpaid care to older people with support needs by their adult children will not keep pace with future demand. Thousands of people in their 60s and 70s today could be left to cope on their own when they need care in the future, with overstretched services unable to make up the shortfall.

‘Britain needs to build new community institutions capable of sustaining us through the changes ahead and to adapt the social structures already in place, such as family and care, public services, the workplace and neighbourhoods.’ Care and support minister Norman Lamb said health and social care services would have to work differently to deal with the challenges ahead.

‘That’s why we have created a £3.8bn fund to bring local NHS and councils together to focus on helping people to live independently and preventing them from needing more support,’ he said.

‘Fourteen pioneer areas – including Leeds – are already demonstrating that this way of working means people get better care closer to home. Plans for joining up care in every local area are now being finalised and these will include schemes to support carers.’

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