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Fresh ideas needed on elderly spending, says North Yorkshire council leader

Councillor Carl Les, of North Yorkshire County Council.
Councillor Carl Les, of North Yorkshire County Council.

The leader of a council serving a rapidly rising elderly population has called for fresh thinking over how care services for the elderly and vulnerable should be funded.

Councillor Carl Les said North Yorkshire County Council was already devoting 46 per cent of its budget to adult care services and the current system of funding it was unsustainable.

He said: “It’s a welcome problem that people are living longer, but unless something changes there will come a point when all the money is spent looking after the increasingly elderly residents and increasing number of them.”

Councillor Les added that unless action was taken, the authority would be forced to consider cuts to other essential services.

It is estimated there are 140,000 people aged 65 and over living in the county, making up 23.3 per cent of the total North Yorkshire population, compared to 17.7 per cent across England in 2015.

While there has also been an increase of 30,000 older people in the county since 2005, Office of National Statistics projections indicate the 65 and over population in North Yorkshire will rise to over 169,000 by 2025.

The number of people in North Yorkshire estimated to be living with long-term health conditions as a result of heart attacks alone has been predicted to rise from 6,884 in 2015 to 9,492 in 2030.

A report to a meeting of the council’s executive next week states the council is facing “great and increasing pressure in the delivery of social care services”.

It said a series of complaints against the council’s adult and social care department which had been upheld by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman highlighted challenges about who pays for adult social care.

The report said the cases also raised issues about how much the state, and therefore taxpayers, should pay for social care collectively and how much cost should continue to fall to individuals and their families.

Councillor Les said the authority had long called on the Government to establish sustainable funding and organisational arrangements. for social care and there needed to be a debate between all political parties on a way forward.

He declined to state a preference for a funding solution ahead of a government Green Paper examining social care funding and the contributions of the state and individuals that is expected to be published by the Department of Health and Social Care in the summer.

Leader of the council’s Labour group, Councillor Eric Broadbent said while he was eagerly awaiting the findings of the Green Paper, he was not optimistic it would lead to a significant change in policy.

He said: “Austerity measures are driving these social care charges. Some care homes are charging their residents £1,000 a week. It is totally unfair that some people work all their lives and have to pay these charges out of their own pocket.”