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New research from national charity Age Scotland has revealed that 43 percent of older people assessed as needing substantial or critical care in 2018 waited more than the six weeks outlined in national guidelines to get the social care they need.

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.

The report details the impact of the delays on people and their families in three case studies.

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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.

Richard Mayberry, the son-in-law of Dorothy, aged 90, said: “Our experience of accessing the necessary social care for a loved one was long and difficult. We were waiting for days to get any kind of timeframe from the council about when they could assess Dorothy for her care needs.

“We live so far away and it was clear that her needs were so great that we eventually had to find a care home for her ourselves and fund her place in the short term. At the end of the day it has cost us around £4500 which we can’t get back because the council won’t backdate to when Dorothy first entered the care home.

“It’s clear that social care in Scotland is under immense pressure. The care we experienced was superb but, it is clear carers are overstretched and rushed off their feet. There was clearly not enough time between each carers’ home visits to give adequate coverage.

“The main concern of their management seemed to be financial rather than the person’s needs. There is too much red-tape, no clarity and long waits for assistance to the detriment of the patients and their families’ welfare.”

Age Scotland’s report also discovered that:

  • Over 6,000 older people waited more than six weeks for social care.
  • The average waiting time to receive social care was two and a half weeks among the councils who responded to Freedom of Information requests.
  • The average time to receive an assessment to determine social care needs was three weeks across Scotland, but it was higher in the Western Isles, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Midlothian, Moray and Perth and Kinross councils.
  • Previous research conducted by Age Scotland found that, in 2015, the average waiting time for an assessment to be carried out was two and a half weeks; waiting times for social care has increased over the last three years.
  • 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 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.

Commenting on this new report, 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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