Elderly care budget cut by £610m
Spending on social care for the elderly has been cut by more than £600 million this year, potentially putting lives at risk, a charity has claimed.
Research by Age UK suggested older people's care budgets had been slashed by a "devastating" 8.4% as the Government's spending cuts bite.
The figures, which were disputed by the Government, were based on data obtained from councils under the Freedom of Information Act.
Some 139 out of 152 authorities responded to requests by Age UK, which calculated that net expenditure on older people's social care was falling by £610 million in 2011/12, compared with 2010/11. The charity also found that at least 61 councils were increasing charges on provision of services like home help and day care centres.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said: "Funding for social care is already inadequate and the system today is failing many older people at the time when they really need help.
"The consequences of cutting expenditure further to 8.4%, indicated by our research, could be devastating. We are fearful that even more vulnerable older people will be left to struggle alone and in some cases lives will be put at risk. We anticipate these cuts will condemn many more older people to a miserable existence behind closed doors struggling to keep safe and well."
Age UK's research comes ahead of the eagerly-anticipated findings of the Dilnot Commission, set up by the Government last year to come up with proposals for the future funding of social care.
Labour accused the Government of damaging elderly care by front-loading public spending cuts.
But Care Services minister Paul Burstow said Age UK's figures "simply don't add up". He said: "Council spending on social care is under pressure - that's why the Government will provide an extra £7.2 billion over the next four years to local authorities so that they can protect services that support vulnerable people.
"But Age UK's research does not give the full picture and they have seriously underestimated the amount of additional support for social care and older people in particular. This includes £150 million in the NHS for reablement, which will support older people, but is not reflected in Age UK's figures."