Tonight at 9pm the BBC will air the first of a two part Panorama series looking at the state of social care. The Crisis in Care programme highlights the issues with dementia care in the UK, revealing the human costs of a failing system.
In an unprecedented move, Somerset Council granted full access to BBC Panorama for a year in the interests of showing how years of budget cuts are impacting the services they can provide - and the lives of people who depend on the care system.
The programme tells the story of Barbara, who has Alzheimer’s, and her daughter Rachel who cares for her. When the council has to close the specialist day centre Barbara attends, a suitable replacement is hard to find and Rachel is left exhausted by the demands of caring full-time.
Budget cuts are putting the burden on unpaid carers
This is far from an isolated incident - Somerset County Council is not alone in battling budget cuts.
The same pressures are being felt all across the country. Since 2010, councils have had almost half of their funding from national government cut and, as a result, are forced to cease vital services in order to stay afloat. This means that people like Barbara and Rachel, who rely on public services as a lifeline, are being let down.
Across England, the number of people over 65 receiving long-term care has dropped by more than 20,000 since 2015/16 - this is in spite of the population ageing and thousands more people now living with dementia.
A funding gap of more than £1 billion
This year adult social care services across the country are facing a funding gap of more than £1 billion – and that’s just to continue delivering the amount of services they currently are, not do anything else. It is no surprise, then, that more than a quarter of the nearly 2 million requests for social care support in 2017/18 resulted in no services being provided.
Ordinary people are being forced to plug the gaps in services.
As Rachel says in the Panorama episode, people care for their family members “out of love” – but this still takes a toll. The balance of responsibility between the individual and the state has to be addressed so that unpaid carers aren’t left to pick up all the strain.
We need action from the Government on this issue
The Government must respond to tonight’s programme. Social care reform has stalled, with a Green Paper designed to put forward a long-term, fair funding solution delayed five times in just two years. With a new Prime Minister imminent, they must say how they will tackle an issue that successive governments have failed to act on.
A Dementia Fund is needed to help with care costs
Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s Society is calling for a Dementia Fund to be included in this year’s spending review. The Fund is designed to shore up the system in the shorter-term, giving people with dementia greater access to affordable, specialist care.
A Dementia Fund would break the deadlock on care reform, providing a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of people living with the condition while a long-term funding solution is sought.
For many people, the intricacies of the social care system are not something they become aware of until they have to navigate it themselves. This is a crisis behind closed doors.
Tonight’s Panorama pulls back the curtain to reveal the human cost of a system that is unfair, unsustainable and in need of urgent overhaul. Let’s hope the people with the power to change things are watching.
Stand with us and ask for better care
We are standing up for people who need better care, will you stand with us? Add your name and join our Fix Dementia Care campaign today.