BRITAIN’S crippled social care system is forcing thousands of Portsmouth pensioners to tend for older relatives and friends, a charity has claimed.
Older person’s cause Age UK said more than 8,400 people across Portsmouth and Gosport are ‘papering over the cracks’ in the nation’s ‘failing’ health system by providing long-term unpaid care for needy loved ones.
The news has prompted urgent calls by charity leaders and politicians for the government to take action.
Dianne Sherlock, chief executive of Age UK Portsmouth, feared thousands in the city were struggling to cope with dying loved ones too poor to afford to stay in care homes.
She said: ‘These figures show how badly our underfunded social care system is failing people when they most need support.
‘Many people have to rely on frail and elderly family or friends for help because they have nowhere else to turn. This can put enormous strain on people at an already difficult time in their lives.
‘Especially for older carers, these additional responsibilities can seriously affect their own health and be very isolating.
‘The system currently isn’t fit for purpose. We have to do better.’
Retired NHS worker Terry Smith, of Drayton, has put his life on hold for more than seven years to care for his 103-year-old dad, Harold (pictured), who has dementia.
The 72-year-old and his wife Celia, 63, spend 10 hours a day, every day, supporting his frail father – who cannot afford to go into a care home.
Both he and Celia retired early from their jobs to care for Harold and said the decision has put a strain on their relationship and caused them to lose friends.
‘We work 10 hours a day, every day, for 365 days a year – we’re always on call every night, we can’t plan to go out in case dad needs us and we don’t get paid,’ he said.
‘The government has got to take the heat off families like mine and give us more support and freedom.
‘There is only so long someone’s mental health can take the pressure of working everyday, without a break.
‘Even slaves used to get Sunday morning off.’
Mr Smith, of Havant Road, Drayton, said his dad was lucky to live a couple of minutes walk away from his family, at his home in Station Road.
He added he was ‘not surprised’ by Age UK’s figures and felt he, and so many others, have been failed by the current care system.
‘You cannot trust the social care system of this country,’ he said. ‘It is absolutely failing the most vulnerable people in society.
‘If these 8,000 people in Portsmouth haven’t got someone to stand up for them, the system will just ignore them.
‘If dad had not had us living so close to him, I’m sure the system would have killed him by now.’
Age UK’s research claimed more than half (55 per cent) of older people in England needing care at home were relying on family and friends, with just under a third of unpaid older carers claiming they were unable to take a break from their responsibilities.
The charity is now calling on the government to fill the ‘short-term funding gap’ for social care and deliver its ‘long overdue social care green paper’ this year.
‘We cannot continue to fail older people who need help,’ said Mrs Sherlock.
Since 2010 councils have had to bridge a £6bn funding shortfall just to keep the adult social care system going.
The Local Government Association estimates that adult social care services face a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care, while latest figures show councils in England receive 1.8 million new requests for adult social care a year – the equivalent of nearly 5,000 a day.