Government 'woefully unprepared' to cope with UK's ageing population
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Communities and also in Central Government, Finance, Health, Housing
Pension potImage: Pension pot via Shutterstock
The government has been warned that it is "woefully unprepared" for the UK's ageing population.
The House of Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change has said that a rapidly ageing population will have a huge impact on UK society and public services unless government and all political parties address the issue.
The Committee's report forecasts a 50 percent increase in the number of those aged 65+ and a 100 percent increase in those aged 85+ by 2030.
The committee believes that the gift of longer life could lead to a series of crises.
Though conceding that a longer life offers benefits for many, the report says that helping people sustain a good quality of life over more years will require big changes in employment practices, pensions, health and social care services.
Long-term health conditions, and health and social care services will need a radically different model of care to support such people in their own homes and in the community, and so avoid needless admissions to hospital, says the report.
The Committee was concerned that the government has not properly addressed the problem and has called on those in power to publish a White Paper before the next general election, setting out how society needs to prepare for a longer life.
The Committee recommends that whichever party is in government after the next election should establish two cross-party commissions to respond to the ageing society within six months of taking office.
One would work with employers and financial services providers to improve pensions, savings and equity release, whilst the other would analyse how the health and social care system and its funding should change to serve the needs of our ageing population. Both should report in 12 months.
The Committee also concluded that the current model of health and social care provision is failing older people now and is inappropriate to care well for the many more older people there will be with chronic health conditions.
This, it claims, will require a fundamental change to healthcare provision and the integration of health and social care systems and their funding, with the NHS having to transform to deal with the very large increases in demand for and costs of health and social care.
The Committee claims that England has an inappropriate model of health and social care to cope with the changed pattern of ill health from an ageing population.
“Health and social care need to be radically reformed; both are failing older people now. A big shift in services is essential so that the many more older people with long-term conditions can be well cared for and supported in their own homes and in the community and not needlessly end up in hospital. All health services and social care must be integrated to help achieve this," said Lord Filkin, chairman of the Committee.
He added: “The Government must set out in a White Paper the implications of an ageing society with a vision for living well and independently.
“This is not a distant issue; our population is older now and will get more so over the next decade. The public are entitled to an honest conversation about the implications.”
Jane Ashcroft, chief executive of Anchor, an older people’s charity that is behind a campaign calling for government to appoint a dedicated minister for older people, said: “Over a year ago, a petition was handed to Number 10 by Anchor with 137,000 signatures calling for a minister for older people to be appointed in government.
"We still lack one person in Cabinet who is responsible for looking at older people’s needs across the board, taking a holistic approach to preparing for issues that are faced by older people today, as well as future generations."
The report has been warmly received by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).
Its housing director of health and wellbeing, Domini Gunn, said: “We fully support the emphasis placed on providing homes where people can age well, connected to their communities, with the support and care provided that meets their needs.
"CIH will continue to work across the housing industry to identify and promote best practice in providing an increased supply of affordable housing for older people and a wide range of housing-related support services.”
Meanwhile, the National Housing Federation (NHF) has said that the report is a wake-up call.
NHF director Gill Payne said: "Getting housing associations, councils and health services to work together is the key. This will dramatically improve older people’s lives by helping them live independently. And it also saves money by reducing the need for more acute care.
"Many housing associations are already working together with their local health and social care partners to meet the needs of their communities. But we need more leadership like this across health and social care to make these integrated services more common. Otherwise, we face serious consequences for failing to address our changing society.”
John Wearing, partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, said: "The evidence shows that something has to change. The social care sector in particular needs to receive proper support from central government, ensuring the integration of health and social care services and providing incentives to deliver improved outcomes over the long term to ensure that it is properly equipped for the rising demand and is able to give the support required to families and carers who may be looking after a loved one.
"The key message that has emerged from this report is that we need to plan ahead, and I hope that key decision-makers in central government will pay attention and act accordingly."