Decreasing social care budgets and increasing mortality rates

Even the Daily Telegraph has seen fit to expose the grim findings behind the alleged link between increasing adult mortality rates and the severe cuts to social care funding in local government. Preliminary data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that in just one year, there were 5.4% more deaths (almost 27,000) in England. Public health experts said that when longer periods were examined along with other factors – such as spikes in immigration of older people in the 1960s – the current trends appeared to be the worst since World War Two.

Figures show that numbers of deaths have fallen steadily since the 70s, but that trend began to reverse in 2011 – the year government cuts to social care budgets started to take effect. The year-on-year rise, to a total of 528,340 deaths, is the highest since 1968. There were more deaths last year than any year since 2003.

The situation is particularly bad for women, where ‘excessive’ levels of mortality have been recorded, according to Oxford University’s Professor Danny Dorling, adviser to Public Health England.


Over the past 5 years, In spite of UNISON’s and local campaign group protests, West Sussex County Council has:

  • Raised eligibility thresholds for adult social care, cutting many vulnerable people out of council support;
  • Closed 3 brilliant days centres for elderly and disabled people and downgraded the services provided at 1 other; and
  • Increased charges for day centre meals and ‘Meals on Wheels’ far in excess of inflation, whilst freezing council tax for non-disabled residents.

Many public health experts put the rise in deaths down to the growing crisis of elderly care. Recently, 6 chief executives of social care charities have warned of an ‘impending crisis’ for people using social care services in West Sussex. They are:

  • Philippa Thompson, (Independent Lives)
  • Diane Henderson (Age UK West Sussex)
  • Sue Livett (Aldingbourne Trust)
  • Geoff Coleman (Crossroads Care South Central)
  • Jennie Musgrove (Carers Support West Sussex)
  • Nik Demetriades, Chief Executive, 4Sight

They said: “Central grant funding for local public services is being cut in stages and will be completely gone by 2020. West Sussex County Council cannot meet its duty to provide high-quality care if they don’t have sufficient funding to do so.”

UNISON and other campaigners have always maintained that cuts do hurt. They endanger life, reduce quality of life and curtail life chances. Now public health data on mortality rates in England is showing a significant increase in deaths from the time that social care cuts started to bite.

The government is now considering transferring the budget and responsibility for Attendance Allowance onto local authorities. This would have serious repercussions for disabled and elderly people and their carers.