Fears family carers will be forced to pick up the pieces as work begins to cut £31 million from Norfolk’s social care budget.

Nearly one in eight people in Norfolk look after a relative or friend who cannot manage on their own due to mental or physical ill health. Caring for someone else, although rewarding, can be challenging and it’s feared these struggles are set to get worse as Norfolk County Council begins work to make huge savings in its social care budget.

This is happening at a time when the number of people needing care is set to rise. The elderly population in Norfolk is due to increase by 40,000 over the next ten years while the working age population will barely increase at all, in this period*.

Norfolk Carers believes this combination of factors will add to the pressures many family carers already face and may bring negative consequences for their physical and mental health, as well as their finances. Executive Manager, Tim Allard:

“The risks are further financial hardship for families and increased pressures on them to navigate the system to find the best options for the person they care for. We already know that around a third of carers who provide 20 or more hours of care each week are living in poverty.** There needs to be national recognition of the need to rethink the whole social care system.”

Ian Websdale, who’s 73 and from Bradwell, cares for his 70 year old wife Beatrice who has advanced dementia. Beatrice was diagnosed in 2011 and is currently funded by Norfolk County Council to attend Rosewood Day Centre in Great Yarmouth for four days a week for six hours.

Ian says the care Beatrice receives is excellent but it was a fight to get the place for his wife and he’s concerned for the future:

“I’m fully expecting something to happen and I’ll be surprised if they don’t hit my wife’s care in some way.”

Ian says as things stand even finding out about what you might be entitled to can be a real struggle and he relies on his background as a senior manager to help him find his way around the system:

“There are extra payments you can get but some of the forms you fill in have so much red tape attached to them. Often people don’t look into what’s available and if you don’t ask about this sort of thing, you don’t get.

As part of its savings plan, Norfolk County Council plans to employ more social workers to assist people to remain or regain independence – a shift away from people with needs being matched to day centres and residential homes.

However, new research by Newcastle University shows that as life expectancy increases, so too will the number of years older adults spend with substantial care needs – many of whom will be unable to live independently. Professor Carol Jagger led the study and says it will only increase pressure on families and the care system:

“Our findings have considerable implications for relatives as older people will have complex needs, requiring sustained input from family carers or social care teams to support independent living.”

Norfolk Carers provides advice and support to unpaid carers in the county. Services can be accessed through a free, confidential advice line on 0808 808 9876.

*Source: Norfolk Insight
**Source Joseph Rowntree Foundation research published in The Independent.