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BBC Panorama highlights crisis in elderly social care provision

Posted: 05/04/2017

A recent BBC Panorama programme has highlighted the lack of funding available to local authorities to purchase home care support, leaving elderly and vulnerable people with little or no home care.

Panorama researched the position of commercial firms which are paid by local authorities to provide home-care support. The programme reported that the “social care system” was “buckling under the strain” with home care companies going out of business, at risk of insolvency or walking away because their local authority contracts no longer cover costs.

The programme made Freedom of Information requests to local councils. Out of the 197 which replied, 95 confirmed that they had had home care contracts cancelled. Analysis commissioned by Panorama from the consultancy Opus Restructuring, found that 69 home care companies in Britain had shut down in the previous three months and another 2,500 companies were at risk of insolvency.

A spokesperson for the United Kingdom Homecare Association, quoted in a related article in The Times said: “We have some really desperate providers who really do not know whether they are going to be able to continue in business beyond the next year. That means they are having to make some hard commercial decisions, whether they might need to cease trading or indeed just hand back work to local councils.”

This lack of provision has a knock-on effect on the ability of hospitals to discharge elderly patients back into the community while many older people are going without the daily assistance they need. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “Older and vulnerable people must get compassionate care, which is why we have provided councils with £9.25 billion of dedicated funding, including an extra £1 billion in 2017-18 to provide immediate relief. We will bring forward proposals later this year to ensure a more financially sustainable social care system.”

Camilla Wonnacott, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, commented: “We have repeatedly emphasised the growing crisis in elderly care provision. Our elderly population is increasing. We have a responsibility to ensure that older people have the support they need to live independent lives wherever possible. Lack of care to assist with everyday tasks such as washing and dressing leaves many isolated in their own homes and at risk of injury and hospital admission. Sadly, the elderly claims we deal with are largely the result of poor standards of support in the community or poor standards of care in hospital and, in some cases, a combination of both.”

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