In its Report, the House of Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change warns that the Government and our society are woefully underprepared for ageing. The Committee says that longer lives can be a great benefit, but there has been a collective failure to address the implications and without urgent action this great boon could turn into a series of miserable crises
The report identifies how England will see a 51% rise in those aged 65+ and a 101% increase in those aged 85+ from 2010 to 2030; see local authority-level figures.
Longer lives represent progress, but as well as opportunities, the changes involved create major challenges for individuals, for employers, for our welfare services, and for the Government and all political parties. Radical changes to the way that health and social care is delivered are needed to provide appropriate care for the population overall and particularly for older people, and to address future demand.
An ageing society affects everyone: these issues require open debate and leadership by the Government and all political parties. No Government so far has had a vision and coherent strategy; the current Government are no exception and are not doing enough to ensure our country is ready for ageing. The Committee calls on the Government to set out their analysis of the issues and challenges, and their vision for public services in an ageing society, in a White Paper to be published well before the next general election; and for all parties, in working on their manifestos for that election, to consider the wider implications of the ageing society for the balance of responsibilities between individuals and the Government.
The Committee recommends that the Government elected in 2015 should, within six months, establish two commissions to respond to the ageing society. One would work with employers and financial services providers to examine how to improve pensions, savings and equity release; the other would analyse how the health and social care system and its funding should be changed to serve the needs of our ageing population. Both should report in 12 months.
Suitable health and social care for an ageing society
The Committee has concluded that the quality of healthcare for older people is not good enough now, and that England has an inappropriate model of health and social care to cope with a changing pattern of ill health from an ageing population, with many more older people living for more years, often with one or more chronic long-term health conditions. Without radical changes in the way that health and social care serve the population, needs will remain unmet and cost pressures will rise inexorably. The inter-dependent nature of health and social care means that the structural and budgetary split between them is not sustainable: healthcare and social care must be commissioned and funded jointly.
The NHS will have to transform to deal with very large increases in demand for and costs of health and social care. Social care and its funding are already in crisis.
The Committee calls on the Government to develop a new basis for health and social care for our ageing population and create a vision so that other decision-makers can work to bring it about.
Supporting ourselves through later life
There is already a major problem with individuals not saving enough for retirement, which demographic change will exacerbate. Many people will want or need to work for longer, and employers should facilitate this. Many people are not saving enough to provide the income they will expect in later life, and the Government must work to improve defined contribution pensions, which are seriously inadequate for many.
The Committee suggests that people need help to make better use of the wealth tied up in their own property to support their longer lives, and urges Government to work with the financial services industry to encourage the growth of a safe and easy-to-understand equity release market. See Pensions and Savings.
Attitudes to ageing
The Committee argues that with increasing longevity, our view of older age should change. For example, Government and employers should work to end ‘cliff-edge’ retirement. See Attitudes to Ageing.