West Lothian faces age gap crisis

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West Lothian faces a potential future crisis in care costs as the gap between the old and young widens.

In 20 years the number of people over 75 will have risen by 119 per cent while the number of working age people – the taxpayers who fund social care- will grow by no more than 4.1 per cent. The county’s population increased by almost 20 per cent between 1998 and 2018 – the second highest rate of the country’s 32 councils. In the same decades Scotland’s population rose by only 7.15 per cent.

The figures are outlined  in the annual report by the Chief Social Worker. The report says: “West Lothian faces a growing and also an ageing population. The population is growing faster than the Scottish average.”

In the next 20 years, the report adds: “The working age population 25-49 years and 50-64 years are only projected to grow by 2.1 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively.” The figures have implications for long term care of age related conditions – and those who will face costs paying for the care, and who will carry out that work.

The report adds: “The number of carers in West Lothian is similar to the national average and has not changed since the 2001 Census. There has, however, been a significant increase (35 per cent) in the amount of care provided with nearly 7,800 people providing unpaid care for 20 or more hours a week, and 4,600 of these for 50 hours or more.”

A West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership spokesperson said: “It’s great news that more people in West Lothian are living longer, with health and care services focused on supporting them to live well in their community.

“However, the additional demand for services means that health and care services in West Lothian face considerable challenges.

“Public sector funding is not rising at the same rate, which means changes are required to redesign services for older people, with a focus on supporting those most in need and maximising the use of technology enabled care where appropriate.

“West Lothian’s Health and Social Care Partnership’s (HSCP) strategic priorities to support over 75’s are early intervention and prevention, tackling inequalities, integrated and co-ordinated care and managing our resources effectively. This will involve intervening early to promote independence, improve management of long term conditions and encourage people to be in control of how their services are delivered.”