Older people across Wales waiting longer for social care assessments
Thousands of older people in Wales in need of social care are being left to either cope as best they can by themselves or rely on unpaid care from family and friends.
Many of these unpaid carers are close to breaking point, according to a new report by Age Cymru.
New research conducted by Age Cymru says that while those with the most urgent needs are being supported, thousands are being left struggling on lengthy waiting lists.
The longest reported wait for an individual to be assessed by a local authority was 1,122 days.
At the same time the charity’s advice services have recorded an 89% surge in enquiries about community care up from 2,787 in the pre-pandemic year to 5,254 in 2022/23.
The study Why are we still waiting? Is based on discussions with local authorities in Wales and with the charity’s advice and various support services, as well as analysis from its annual survey What matters to you.
The report says it is vital that earlier help becomes available and calls for an urgent focus on those waiting more than a month for an assessment. It also found poor communication with older people waiting for care in local authorities across Wales, adding that the information they receive also needs to be improved.
The charity expressed concern that the real picture could be even worse due to differences in data collection and is urging the Welsh Government to help local authorities improve their recording systems.
The report urges regional partnership boards, local authorities, third sector service providers, and community groups to work together to improve the availability of intervention and prevention services, adding that the third sector needs to be sustainably funded on a longer-term basis.
It also urges local authorities to share good practice and to speed up efforts to provide help for unpaid carers – many of whom are struggling to cope. And it calls on local authorities to assess whether their information and advice to support older people is accessible to the thousands of people who are digitally excluded.
Despite the huge pressures, the report says local authorities are working hard to reduce waiting lists by introducing innovative working practices.
For example, several authorities are encouraging the development of micro enterprises to deliver lower-level care needs. Others are introducing community-based activities such as gardening and walking, and support closer to where people live.
However, it says local authority efforts have been hampered by the cost-of-living crisis and a less healthy Welsh population with more complex needs following the pandemic.
Age Cymru’s chief executive Victoria Lloyd says “We’ve known for some time that social care in Wales has been struggling, with many older people and their carers not getting the support and care they need to live a dignified life. However, what this report shows is the extent of the problem which runs deeply in all areas of Wales.
“It also demonstrates the need for urgent action so that older people are not kept waiting for lengthy periods while their health and well-being deteriorates.
“And whichever models of care we develop it is crucial that we place older people and their needs and aspirations at the heart of social care, and we must all recognise care staff for their professionalism and dedication”
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