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Elderly care now a ‘ticking time-bomb’

The care system is like a “ticking time-bomb” with time to avert disaster affecting thousands of elderly and disabled people now “running out”, a former care minister warns today.

Paul Burstow, the architect of the coalition government’s ambitious reform programme for social care in England – key parts of which, such as the cap on bills, have now been shelved – said progress in making even simple changes had been “snail-like” in some areas and non-existent in others.

His warning came as he published a new report on efforts to tackle shortcomings in the provision of care in people’s own homes.

Last year a commission of inquiry, chaired by Mr Burstow and backed by the think-tank the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), found some elderly people are faced with a conveyor belt of up to 50 separate carers a year.

It detailed a system increasingly starved of funding and operated by demoralised and often exploited workers increasingly putting frail older people at risk.

• Revealed: where pensioners are getting just 15 minutes of daily home care

Its recommendations included calls for long-term changes in the way in which home care is paid for to prevent providers from going out of business and a fundamental change in the way carers are trained to make it a desirable career.

But it also set out simpler “easy win” changes which could be made quickly and make a significant difference, such as providing free flu jabs for carers.

It followed repeated concerns about rushed and sloppy care,commissioned on the basis of crude 10 or 15-minute slots and revelations of carers being paid less than the legal minimum wage when travel time between appointments and essential expenses are taken into account.

Around 500,000 adults in England rely on care in their own homes, provided through their local council with another 150,000 paying for it privately. But there is also thought to be about another 800,000 seeking care.

• Elderly faced with ‘parade’ of 50 carers a year passing through their own home 

• Convicted criminals recruited as carers for elderly

A progress report, published by the LGiU and Mr Burstow, concludes that progress in implementing any of the commission’s recommendations had been “sparse and scant”. Overall it scores progress across England just one and a half out of five.

In an article published on telegraph.co.uk, Mr Burstow added that plans announced in George Osborne’s Spending Review last week would not avert the wider crisis in the care system, which has hit by spending cuts at a time when the elderly population is growing faster than ever.

He wrote: “Social care, the basic support a disabled or frail older person needs to be able to live a life, is the poor relation of the NHS – the Chancellor did nothing to change that.

“Underfunding social care is a false economy.

“Inadequate social care support simply shunts costs onto the NHS as people reach crisis point and dial 999 or imposes intolerable burdens on families.”

He continued: “Even giving the flu jab to care workers, surely a sensible measure to protect the workforce and those they care for, has fallen on deaf ears.

“Progress creating training and career pathways for care workers has been snail-like. There has been next to no progress on ending 10 minute visits.”

He added: “The recommendations … could help but time is running out.

“The cost of this inaction … are becoming clearer. The money will be too little too late to stop the social care time-bomb going off.”

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