Press Release

Embargo: 00:01 Saturday 12 December 2015

The end of formal adult social care?

  • UK heading towards the bottom of OECD league table for spending on care as proportion of GDP.
  • Local authorities with the highest concentration of older people and with highest reliance on unpaid informal caring will perversely be able to raise least from the Council Tax Precept announced in the Spending Review.
  • Lack of investment will lead to growing reliance on informal carers with significant economic and social implications.

Detailed analysis of the social care funding measures outlined in the Spending Review reveals a bleak future for older people needing care.

The new research published by the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK) Centre for Later Life Funding and supported by Age UK, reveals:

  • Approximately 1.86 million people over the age of 50 in England (1 in 10) have unmet care needs – an increase of 120,000 people (or 7%) since 2008/9.
  • Data from 326 local authorities shows that the councils with the highest concentration of older people and unpaid carers will be the ones that will bring in the least amount of money from the 2% council tax precept.
  • There are approximately 4.3 million people aged 50+ in England who are living alone (that’s roughly 1 in 5 middle aged and older people living on their own).

ILC-UK point out that even if the Spending Review announcements bring £3.5bn into adult social care, a scenario they describe as “highly unlikely”, this will still only mean that spending on care returns to 2015 levels by the end of the Parliament. This level of funding would imply an overall fall in expenditure on care as a proportion of GDP putting us firmly towards the bottom end of the OECD league table.

The think tank argues that the low level of funding offered is likely to result in a polarisation of care – private formal care for those that can afford it, rising reliance on informal carers and increasing unmet needs for those that can’t.

The end of formal adult social care” points out that the numbers accessing care services have fallen by half a million since 2008/9 (a drop of 30%) despite a growing ageing population. The number of over 80s have risen by 800,000 in the last decade. The provocation notes that there are already around 1.5 million people providing over 50 hours per week of unpaid care and that without investment the need for informal care will increase.

ILC-UK highlight that increasing pressures on unpaid carers will have a significant economic impact, preventing more people from continuing in work. They argue that the UK does not have the required infrastructure to move to a model of care that relies so heavily on family and community support and that if this were to happen, significant extra investment would be needed. Without greater support, both financial and in terms of more formal care support, greater unpaid caring could risk an erosion in the quality of care provided.  

Ben Franklin, Head of Economics of an Ageing society at ILC-UK warned:

“The future for adult social care looks bleak.

The social care settlement will be insufficient to meet the growing care needs of an ageing population and does little more than paper over the cracks which many of those who are in need of care are already falling through.

While some will be able to rely on family to support their needs, increased prevalence of unpaid caring may have adverse consequences for those providing support, for the economy as a whole due to reduced employment, and without additional investment may even lead to an erosion in the quality of care provided.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK said:

"This report reinforces the consensus among experts that the measures the Government ‎announced in the Spending Review will not be enough to arrest the further decline of social care in this country.

"As such it is a wake-up call for the public, women especially, because they make up most family carers. Over the last twenty years the need to provide a system of childcare has been‎ first recognised and then at least partially met, in order to enable more women to work and support decent family incomes. Now many of those same women, or sometimes their mothers, could find they have to leave work to care for their own ageing parents, because we are effectively dismantling our system of social care. This is the wrong political and economic choice and it will hurt older people and their families."


On Saturday 12th December, the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK), will publish its analysis of the implications of the 2015 Autumn Spending Review on adult social care. (

The provocation, “the end of formal adult social care” was supported by Age UK.

ILC-UK is the country’s leading think tank impacting policy on longevity, ageing and population change.

This report is the second publication from The Centre for Later Life Funding, which in turn, sits under the guise of the ILC-UK. The Centre is, in part, a continuation of its predecessor body the Care Funding Advice Network (CFAN) – a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to improve on the Care Act’s recognition of the need for financial advice.

The Centre represents a significant expansion in terms of scope and output to include policy briefings and research papers, which consider not just questions about care funding but questions about funding retirement more broadly. And critically, it is focused on developing ideas and solutions to these questions. We think that the artificial separation of retirement funding from care funding is unhelpful given that long-term care can be one of the biggest costs that people face during their retirement years.


David Eaton ( or David Sinclair ( 02073400440 or 07531164886.

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