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What does 2017 hold for social care?

| 06 Jan 2017

Perhaps 2016 will be remembered as the year the UK social care services reached crisis point.

The headlines were bleak: significant funding gaps in community services for older people, which could increase to £2.6bn by 2020; delays in dischargingmedically fit patients from hospital; regular breaches of safe hospital bed occupancy levels; a misalignment between government and the health and care sectors.

The 6% council tax rise announced in December is a start, but it diverts funds from housing and will leave some taxpayers out of pocket. What’s more, it will do little to ease the pressure of an ageing population, struggling without informal or formal care at home and faced with underpaid and overworked care staff battling an overstretched system.

Something has to change – and, fortunately, there are several ways we can begin to work towards a solution in 2017.

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Underfunded and overstretched – the crisis in care for the elderly

| 15 Dec 2016

‘It’s like being at home,” was the verdict that one resident at West Hall, a care home in West Byfleet, relayed to inspectors. When you walk through the doors, you can see why. The first thing that strikes a visitor is its immaculate grounds and impressive architecture, which blends a beautifully converted old manor house with three eco-build residential lodges.

But the impressive surroundings fade into the background when you start talking to the people who live and work in West Hall. The warmth and affection that characterise the relationships between staff and residents light up its smart interior, creating a comfortable, homely atmosphere. Arriving on a Thursday lunchtime, I’m introduced to several relatives visiting their parents: Nigel Allen, the home’s manager, stresses they are welcomed with open arms. There’s a huge range of activities to take part in: the day I was there, they included a sing-along, a lunch outing to the local pub and a Scrabble group.

West Hall, run by the not-for-profit Anchor Trust, is not a typical care service. It is one of the few homes to have received an outstanding rating from the regulator. Data provided to the Observer by the Care Quality Commission shows that there are just 91 outstanding care homes in England for the over-65s – less than 1% of those the CQC has inspected under its new regime. Almost one in three have been rated as requiring improvement or as inadequate. The quality of care provided to older people in their own homes is similarly variable.

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Care for elderly ‘close to collapse’ across UK as council funding runs out

| 28 Nov 2016

Theresa May is under intense pressure from senior doctors and a powerful cross-party alliance of politicians to avert a collapse in care for the elderly, as shocking new figures show the system close to meltdown.

New figures obtained by the Observer show that 77 of the 152 local authorities responsible for providing care for the elderly have seen at least one residential and nursing care provider close in the last six months, because cuts to council budgets meant there were insufficient funds to run adequate services.

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