Fears about care costs as number of over-65s soars
More money is needed to diffuse the ticking timebomb of elderly care that will see a staggering 330,000 more people over the age of 65 living in the West in less than a generation’s time.
That was the view from cash-strapped council chiefs who laid bare the extent of the problem of paying for care for the elderly now – let alone in 2035 when the population of pensioners has, in some cases, doubled from 2012.
The BBC’s Inside Out West team found that tens of thousands more elderly people will need care by the year 2035 – just 23 years’ time – and councils can barely afford to meet the care needs of today’s pensioners. The biggest jump in the numbers of elderly is in Swindon – where those over 65s are expected to go from around 30,000 now to 59,000 in 2035. Wiltshire, which is ‘enjoying’ the highest level of retirement migration in the country right now, will see the numbers of elderly jump from 92,000 to 155,000 – or from one-in-five of the county’s population to almost one-in-three.
Every single local authority from Gloucestershire to Somerset will see a big jump. Right now, the number of over-65s stands at 544,000, less than one-in-five. By 2035, it will be 872,000.
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Council chiefs in Swindon spend one pound in eight on elderly care, and have honed that spending down to be ‘its most efficient’. But council chief Brian Mattock said the Government would have to step in, and soon, because the pressures on the demand for more care from more elderly people was increasing.
“All the forecasts are that they will continue in that upward direction,” he said. “Obviously government resources to local authorities, over the last three years, have been going in a downward direction – a 25 per cent to 30 per cent reduction – at the same time as the demand for adult social care has been going skywards,” he added.
The baby-boomer generation of the period between the end of World War Two and the start of the widespread use of contraception in the 1960s are now approaching their 70s, and more have survived to old age than previous generations because of better healthcare.
Swindon’s problem is that this baby-boom generation coincided with a vast expansion of the town, with young families moving to find work there.
Already the council spends £16 million on caring for its pensioners, and that will rise by £1 million next year – money the council is hard-pressed to find.
“There does come a point where you cannot make savings of that magnitude – and I think we are nearing that point now,” said Mr Mattock.
“We are as lean and mean as possible and as efficient as possible to provide the services that are needed. We need to then say we’ve done our bit, central government now need to provide more resources,” he added.