The shocking truth about social care that Theresa May’s government won’t want you to see

Theresa May DUP Blackened
Steve Topple

The extent of the crisis in UK adult social care has been revealed. And it points to a Conservative government not only cutting services to the bone, but selling the public a lie about the real cost of looking after elderly people.

Cut to the bone

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures on adult social care for 2016/17. It found that:

  • In England, the government spent £17bn on social care in 2015/16.
  • Wales spent £1.4bn in the same year, and Scotland’s social care bill for 2013/14 was £2.9bn.
  • Social care is costing people more than ever before. Spending by men and women since 2000 has increased by 15% and 21% respectively.

But the truth behind the headline figures paints a more serious picture.

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A lost decade of social care

The ONS revealed that real terms government spending (the amount of money spent, adjusted for inflation) has steadily decreased since the Tories first came to power in 2010. And it is now even lower that it was in 2005/06, when it was £17.2bn in real terms.

But there is another set of figures which highlights the need for reform of the social care system. And that’s the statistics on unpaid carers.

A government reliant on good will

The ONS reported that, in 2014, unpaid carers provided support worth around £56.9bn. That’s nearly three times the amount the government spends on social care across the UK yearly. And within these figures, some worrying facts emerged:

  • In 2015/16, the number of unpaid carers in private homes was around 8% of the population.
  • 59% of these carers were women.
  • Half of adult carers also worked either part time or full time.
  • 29% of unpaid carers said they spent 35 hours or more a week supporting someone.
  • Women over 50 spend on average 5.9 years of the rest of their lives doing unpaid caring. For men, the figure is 4.9 years.
  • At 65, women spend 2.6 years as unpaid carers, compared to one year working. For men, the figures are 2.7 years and 1.8 years respectively.

But some groups claim the reality of unpaid caring in the UK is actually much starker. The Carers Trust, for example, claims that the real value of unpaid carers is £132bn a year, with 10% of the population fulfilling these roles.

A government that doesn’t care?

Theresa May made much of social care during the general election campaign. And little of it was good news for elderly people or their carers. But for the moment, at least, the Tories appear to have shelved the heavily criticised ‘Dementia Tax’.

The figures from the ONS, however, show that successive governments have not only severely underfunded UK social care, but left it reliant on the good will and good nature of millions of individuals. In the world’s fifth largest economy, there is something drastically wrong when a government cannot provide the most basic of care needs to those in later life.

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