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Thursday, 21 January 2016

Thousands of elderly people with sight problems 'casualties' of social care crisis

Written by The Press Association

Almost 12,500 elderly people who are blind or partially sighted are the latest "casualties" of a crisis in social care, two charities have warned.

Age UK and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said thousands more people with sight problems are missing out on vital support compared to a few years ago.

The charities used NHS figures for England to show that between 2008/2009 and 2012/2013, there was a 37% reduction in social care services to older people with visual impairment.

This equates to 12,415 people aged 65 and over missing out on help with things such as getting out of bed, cooking, cleaning, eating, and getting washed and dressed, they said.

The charities suspect thousands more people with sight loss who are not registered for formal social care support are also suffering.

Around 50% of registered blind and partially sighted older people are thought to live alone.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "That so many blind or partially sighted older people who need social care aren't getting it is profoundly shocking.

"Losing our sight is something many of us fear the most, and the idea of struggling alone without social care assistance in such circumstances seems appalling in a civilised society."

Fazilet Hadi, director of engagement at the RNIB, said: "Being left alone to cope with sight loss in later life is wholly unacceptable. No matter how tight government budgets are, this is essential support which must be provided."

Research shows that older people with sight loss are twice as likely to fall as those who still have their sight. They also have a higher risk of injury.

An estimated 87,790 falls in England every year are attributed to older people with sight loss. Almost 17% of these require hospital admission.

A Government spokesman said: "We have a growing, ageing population so more older and vulnerable people will require care and support at some point in their lives - including those who are visually impaired.

"That is why in the Spending Review we gave local authorities access to up to £3.5 billion extra a year by the end of the Parliament through the Social Care Precept and additional investment.

"We also announced £400 million to deliver specialist homes for the elderly and disabled and we continue to spend billions on disability services. Along with this money we have introduced national minimum eligibility criteria and councils must meet the needs of adults whose needs reach this threshold."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jonathan Brady / PA WIre.