Boom of older people in rural areas ‘increasing pressure on social services’

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A boom in the number of older people living in rural England could lead to a drop in the quality of social care and access to services without additional government funding, a new report warns.

The number of over-65s living in counties and rural areas has increased by one million over the past decade, according to an analysis by the County Council Network (CCN).

Data from the 2021 census shows that, for the first time, these areas have roughly as many elderly people as children and young people.

Between 2011 and 2021, people aged 65 and over increased by 1.1 million (23.3%) in the departments, while the number of people aged 0 to 19 only increased by 72,000 (1.3%).

In the metropolitan boroughs and London, the number of older people increased by 14.9% and 15.3% respectively, an increase of just over 400,000 people in total.

The CCN said demographic change is increasing pressure on underfunded adult social services.

That’s hundreds of millions of pounds worse than towns and cities, the NCC said, because the ‘outdated’ funding formula used by the government fails to account for increased demand in counties and rural areas.

County councils are also concerned that adult welfare reforms, due to come into force from October 2023, will lead to reduced quality and access to services unless the government does provide more funding and change the way it shares resources between councils.

Councilor Martin Tett, CCN Adult Social Care Spokesperson, said: ‘Over the past 10 years we have seen a boom in the elderly population in areas of the county, the increase in the over 65 years far exceeding that of other regions of the country.

“This continues the demographic trends we have seen in the counties for decades, with more people living longer or choosing to live in English counties.

“It is to be welcomed. But we must also recognize that the dramatic increase in the number of over-65s in counties and rural areas will have a significant impact on adult social services.

“Failure to reform an outdated council funding formula has left social care services in these areas already hundreds of millions of pounds worse off.

“Welfare reforms in England will have an additional disproportionate impact on counties.

“Unless the government provides more funds and changes the distribution of funds for its flagship adult welfare reforms, the quality and accessibility of care services could deteriorate further.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Reform of adult social care is a priority and we are investing £5.4billion over the next three years to end the spiral of costs of care and supporting the workforce.

“This includes £3.6 billion to reform the social care pricing system and enable all local authorities to move towards paying providers a fair cost of care, and £1.7 billion to begin major improvements in adult social care in England, funded by the Health and Social Care Tax.

“Our investment through the levy adds to record annual funding to help councils meet growing demands and cost pressures.”

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