Older people hit hardest by council cuts

  • The older people's commissioner for Wales has said that older people in Wales will be hardest hit by council cuts.

    Sarah Rochira has told the BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme that reduced spending could have a "devastating impact" on the lives of older people.

    Representitives from the council have said that it is a "fallacy" every service can be saved.

    Ms Rochira has said: "There is a real concern among many older people that these vital services are disappearing, which will have a devastating impact on lives. These services are not luxuries - they are essential to the maintance of older people's health, independence and well being. These services should be seen as essential community assets."

    In Ms Rochira's report, The Importance and Impact of Community Services within Wales, also says that these services make "a huge contribution to the Welsh economy, currently worth £1bn a year, through continued employment, volunteering and childcare". 

    Due to the Welsh government announcing cuts to funding by 5.81% local authorities are looking for ways to save money.

    Some councils are considering increasing the price of meals on wheels, or removing the service altogether. 

    Analysis by Age Cymru says that 41,000 people over 65 in Wales are often or always lonely. 

    Ian Thomas the charity's chief executive has said he is worried that the cuts could lead to increasing levels of isolation.

    Mr Thomas says: "There is a lot of short termism going on at the moment with local authority cuts because taking out the day centres, taking out bus routes, those libraries, will just meant that those older people within their communities will end up needing access to other services. So you'll see a greater pressure on primary care such as GP services and also with the secondary care services such as hospitals - and indeed the social work services. And what I think we will start to see as well in Wales is a growing isolation. We'll probably see things like mortality rates go up - certainly the effect on people's mental health as well."

    The body which represents the councils in Wales admits that there will be long term effects but that it cannot protect every service.

    Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) chief executive Steve Thomas said: "What councils are trying to do is set budgets which have least impact in terms of the front line but most of our services are front line services. "The idea that you can protect every dimension of public service is, I'm afraid, a fallacy. Its just not going to happen - the scale of cuts is such that the budgets of local authorities are declining and that means as those budgets decline, the scale of services they provide decline, that's a horrible fact of life."

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