PENSIONERS are being left lonely and isolated by welfare reform and the situation is set to worsen, according to a North-East charity.
Cuts to the adult social care budget in recent years mean less people are now eligible for help with care and social needs.
Within many local authorities - and in line with central government guidance – only those assessed as having critical or substantial needs are eligible to access adult social care services and related funds.
While those with moderate or low needs can usually access ‘reenablement’ - short term support offered in a bid to help them regain independence – they do not receive direct payments, residential care, short breaks or home care from their local authority.
The chief executive of Age UK Darlington said the reforms meant many pensioners were left struggling and feeling cut off, isolated and lonely.
Gillian Peel said: “There’s a limited budget and fewer people are eligible for council support – that’s nobody’s fault, it’s something happening nationwide.
“People with critical and substantial needs are eligible but many people who are isolated or have other issues no longer qualify.
“They are being left and are becoming even more isolated. Loneliness can lead to depression and depression in older people can lead to the early onset of illnesses like dementia – it also reduces the quality of life and we want to build that back up.
“There could be an even bigger impact when more changes come into being next April and we are always trying to come up with ideas to bridge the gap.
“People who used to access day care and other services on the NHS now come to us and we’re facing an increase in demand just when funding is hardest to get.”
The charity has seen a massive increase in demand for its services since the changes were implemented in 2010.
It now works to bridge the gap left by welfare cuts by offering advice and information, befriending services and a packed calendar of social events, cafes and classes aimed at building up a solid network of support and friendship for the town’s older population.
To help the organisation cope with rising demand, they are appealing for volunteers and donations.
For more information about the support offered by the organisation, for information on volunteering or to donate, visit ageuk.org.uk/darlington or call 01325-362832.