Elderly Scots ‘waiting too long’ for social care

Elderly people in Scotland are waiting too long to receive the social care they require, a new report has warned.

Elderly Scots ‘waiting too long’ for social care

Research from Age Scotland found that more than four in 10 older people with “critical” or “substantial” needs waited more than the six weeks outlined in national guidelines to get the social care they need.

The national charity for older people said urgent action is needed to improve the situation for the elderly and reduce the impact of the delays on family members.

Age Scotland’s new report, “Waiting for Care: Is Scotland meeting its commitment to older people”, also highlighted the wide range of waiting times across local authorities and the lack of accessible information held by them about the reasons for delay.

One of the families who spoke to Age Scotland said their mother, Dorothy, waited six months to be assessed and receive funding for her care needs. Due to the lack of communication from the council and the urgent need to get her into care, the family found a home themselves for Dorothy but in doing so later found that she was put to the bottom of the queue for a social care assessment.

Age Scotland found the average time to receive an assessment to determine social care needs was three weeks across Scotland but was higher in the Western Isles, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Midlothian, Moray and Perth and Kinross.

Previous research conducted by the charity found that in 2015 the average waiting time for an assessment to be carried out was two and a half weeks. The wait has increased over the last three years.

Of the 14 local authorities who provided answers, 43% of older people assessed as having critical or substantial needs did not receive the services they required within the recommended six weeks in 2018.

The research uncovered that more than 6,000 older people waited more than six weeks. This figure will be higher across Scotland as 18 councils were not able to provide the information requested.

The average waiting time to receive social care was two and a half weeks among the councils who responded to Freedom of Information requests. Of the councils who were able to respond, nearly 14,200 people were determined to have “critical” or “substantial” care needs in 2018.

When asked about the most common reasons for delays, most councils were unable to provide the information as they didn’t hold it centrally. Those who did cited service pressures such as increased demand and limited resources.

Age Scotland’s report also outlines six recommendations to local and national government which could help improve the position, including; more regular data recording so councils can spot trends and better respond and plan for increased demand; further efforts to attract and recruit more social care workers; and ensuring that the resources required to fund social care in the future are met.

Age Scotland’s chief executive Brian Sloan said: “Far too many older people are waiting far too long to get the social care they desperately need.

“While many people do receive social care within the timeframe outlined in national guidelines more than 4 in 10 wait much longer. In one circumstance last year the wait was more than 8 months. This is too high and action must be taken to urgently improve the situation for older people in Scotland.

“We conducted this research in order to dig deeper into the stories we receive through our national free helpline for older people. It is a hugely stressful time for family members and the individuals concerned, where a lack of information about time scales or long waits to get the help they need have a significant impact on the life of the older person.

“While free personal and nursing care for the elderly has been a flagship, and revolutionary, policy in Scotland since its introduction in 2002 we need to face up to the challenges of a rapidly ageing population, more people living with dementia and the welcome expansion of this policy to those under the age of 65. This will require more investment in people and services.”

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