Charity shines a light on 43% of older people waiting too long for social care in Scotland
Age Scotland has highlighted that more than four in 10 older people with ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’ needs are having to wait for more than the six weeks for social care specified in Scotland’s national guidelines.
In Age Scotland’s “Waiting for Care: Is Scotland meeting its commitment to older people” report, research revealed that 43 percent of older people assessed as requiring substantial or critical care in 2018 were impacted by the delay.
In addition, the study highlighted the wide range of waiting times variance across local authorities and the lack of accessible information held by them as contributing factors for the delays.
According to the national charity for older people, of the 14 local authorities who responded, nearly 14,200 people were determined to have “critical” or “substantial” care needs in 2018, with more than 6,000 older people having to wait more than six weeks to receive social care.
This figure is expected to be higher across Scotland however, as 18 councils were unable to provide the information requested pointed out Age Scotland.
The average time to receive social care was two and a half weeks among the councils who responded to Freedom of Information requests notes the national charity, with the average time of three weeks to receive an assessment to determine social care needs across Scotland.
With the average waiting time for an assessment to be carried out being two and a half weeks from the charity’s previous research in 2015, the findings from 2018 reveal that there has been an increase over the past three years.
Importantly, when questioned as to the common causes for the delays, Age Scotland emphasised most councils were unable to provide the information as they did hold it centrally, whilst those that did cite service pressures relating to increased demand and limited resources.
Commenting on this new report, Age Scotland’s Chief Executive Brian Sloan said: “Far too many older people are waiting far too long to get the social care they desperately need.
“While many people do receive social care within the timeframe outlined in national guidelines more than four in 10 wait much longer. In one circumstance last year the wait was more than eight months. This is too high and action must be taken to urgently improve the situation for older people in Scotland.
“We conducted this research in order to dig deeper into the stories we receive through our national free helpline for older people. It is a hugely stressful time for family members and the individuals concerned, where a lack of information about time scales or long waits to get the help they need have a significant impact on the life of the older person.”
Recently, the IPPR released a report, suggesting that England should adopt a model similar to that of the Scottish system, proposing those over-65 receive free social care, potentially saving the NHS in England an estimated £4.5bn a year.
“While free personal and nursing care for the elderly has been a flagship, and revolutionary, policy in Scotland since its introduction in 2002 we need to face up to the challenges of a rapidly ageing population, more people living with dementia and the welcome expansion of this policy to those under the age of 65. This will require more investment in people and services,” added Sloan.
Following the findings, Age Scotland has called on local and national government to take action to improve the speed and reliability of social care provision, making six recommendations including the better recording of data by councils in order to spot and respond to trends.
In addition, the charity reinforces the need to attract and recruit more social care works, as well as ensuring that the resources required to fund social care in the future are met.
In response to the findings of Age Scotland’s report, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed questions from MSPs on the topic at First Minister’s Questions on 30th May.
“We will listen carefully to all the recommendations that Age Scotland makes. We want to make sure that there is good, consistent data,” she said.
“There is already a lot of data—for example, on delayed discharges—but it is important that we have the wealth of data to ensure that we can assess whether the actions that we are taking are succeeding.
“We will give due consideration to that recommendation, as we will to all the other recommendations in the report.”
See Nicola Sturgeon’s questions and answers from First Minister’s Questions below: