Significant reform and radical solutions need to be considered to provide the essential services older and vulnerable people in Wales will need according to the National Assembly’s Finance Committee.
In a new report 'The cost of caring for an ageing population', it found that adult social care costs are likely to rise from £1.3 billion in 2015 to around £2.3 billion in 2030 if, as expected, the number of older people in Wales continues to increase.
Out of a population of 3.1 million, over 800,000 people in Wales are aged 60 and over, and around a third of these are at least 75 years old. The proportion of older people in Wales has been increasing over the last decade and the latest Office of National Statistics population projections show that the number of over 65s is projected to continue to increase in future years.
The Committee also found that, overall, spending on social care in Wales has been protected in relative terms during the years of austerity cuts faced by public bodies. However, the increase in population means that spending per head on the over 65s has decreased by 14% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2016-17.
The Committee also found a crisis in recruitment in the social care sector in Wales with high turnovers of trained staff to provide essential services.
Some care providers told the Committee they are seeing a turnover of between a quarter and a third of their staff every year.
This could be exacerbated by the uncertainty around immigration rules post-Brexit which may discourage skilled care workers from coming to the UK, while others already working here are preparing to leave.
Care Forum Wales commented that the uncertainty around immigration status post-Brexit was “already having an effect in terms of recruitment as many providers need to recruit from overseas to fill posts.”
Temporary Chair of the Committee, Llyr Gruffydd AM, said: “The social care system is already faced with rising demand which it is struggling to meet, cuts to local government budgets, workforce pressures and a fragile independent sector.
“These challenges are not new, but the time has now come for significant reform and/or radical solutions to be properly considered.
“Older people are a significant asset and the Committee recognises that, ultimately, the social care system should be helping people to continue to fulfil their potential in later life, to live with dignity and contribute their valued experience to society.”
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said: “I welcome the publication of the findings of the Inquiry into the cost of caring for an ageing population, which was undertaken recently by the National Assembly for Wales’ Finance Committee.
“The Committee’s findings and recommendations strongly reflect the evidence provided to the Inquiry by my office, and cover a wide range of important issues including the vital importance of preventative services and the role of non-statutory services in supporting these, long-term planning and sustainability, the social care workforce, and the support available to carers.
“I also welcome the fact that the report acknowledges the wider pressures and challenges being faced by our social care system.
“It is essential that our social care system has the resources it needs to provide the highest standards of care and support to the people who need it and I hope that the Welsh Government will accept the Committee’s recommendations and take the action needed to ensure Wales has a well-funded, sustainable social care system that will meet older people’s needs both now and in the future.”
The Committee makes nine recommendations in its report, including:
- The Welsh Government prioritises the development of a strategy for the social care workforce and takes appropriate action to raise the status of, and provide support to, social care workers so that the role is an attractive career which is appropriately remunerated;
- That the Welsh Government should, as a matter of urgency, continue to explore further alternative options in order to ensure that any potential funding reforms implemented in future are sufficient to maintain a sustainable social care system fit to meet the needs who require its support; and,
- That the Welsh Government continues to engage with the public about the future funding of social care services but more significantly, it first needs to discuss what they would expect to receive in return for making additional contributions.
The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.