Confusing care system driving people to breaking point

A new Which? investigation exposes the confusing care system that is driving people to breaking point, with those not eligible for state funding often struggling to get basic advice.

We asked 30 people across the UK to keep a diary as they tried to get advice and organise care for their partners, parents or themselves. Our research reveals that people are facing a maze of confusing advice and information, with families feeling distressed when trying to make care arrangements and having to resort to complaining to get things done. One described the process of arranging care as a ‘lottery’.

Surprisingly, those who aren’t eligible for state funding often fare the worst in information and advice, with some people wrongly told that they could not get council support to help them assess their needs. One of our diarists said relatives are left to find their own way as soon as self-funding is mentioned.

The little help and little signposting that people did get can be just as confusing, with many left drowning in a sea of jargon and bureaucracy. Our research found that it’s not always clear to people what roles different professionals play, and people are being pushed from pillar to post and having to repeat key information. One of our diarists seeking care for his wife received a two-hour assessment from the ‘falls team’ which was then referred to another division who also wanted another two-hour assessment because the teams didn’t fully liaise with each other.

A separate Which? survey of more than 1000 people finds that four in 10 (42%) who may need to look into care in the next two years either for themselves or on behalf of someone else say they don’t understand where to go for information or advice, with half (48%) saying they don’t understand how to access services to help live at home. Even those who have looked into care recently don’t have all the knowledge you’d expect with one in five (22%) saying they don’t understand where to go for information.

Councils have a duty to assess people who need care, regardless of how much money you have, and under the Care Bill currently going through Parliament, local authorities will have duties to provide information and advice about care to everyone in their area who needs it, including family carers.

As a response to this problem, Which? has launched an Elderly Care website offering free and practical advice about caring for older people, with information on care choices, including finance and housing options.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“Organising care is a complex process but we found it’s often made worse by a lack of relevant information, confusing jargon and some services leaving people to work it out for themselves, resulting in unnecessary distress for family carers.

Which? Elderly Care helps people find the information that’s relevant to their situation, and offers free, practical advice to help them with  difficult decisions.”

With major changes to the care system underway, it’s important that standards remain high, which means people need to feel confident to speak up when things go wrong. Which? is campaigning to make complaints count in public services to give people the confidence that their feedback will make a difference and will trigger action.

Notes to editors

1.    ComRes interviewed 1,119 English adults who have sought information and advice about care and support services in the past two years (either for themselves if they are over 65 or on behalf of someone else aged over 65), or think they may have a need to do so in the next two years. Research was conducted face to face in people’s homes between 17th August and 13th September 2013. Data were weighted to be representative of all English adults aged 18+ who have looked for information and advice about care and support services over the last two years, based on the results of a previous online omnibus survey (ComRes interviewed 1757 English adults online on behalf of Which? between the 9th and 11th August 2013. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of all GB adults aged 18+).

2.    Visit the consumer rights website to find out what long term care you are entitled to.

 

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