Guardian 6th February 2019
In the last 20 years the number of over 75s has gone up by 31% and the number of over 65s by 28%. The impact on the demand for care can only be dramatic. This context does not appear in media reports.
The Age Concern Scotland ‘research’ reported today by nearly all of Scotland’s NoMedia and of course much loved by the Tory press in England headlines ‘waiting too long’ and ‘increasing waits’ but is seriously flawed. You won’t be surprised to hear that. Age Concern is a worthy campaigning group but not a reliable independent research centre.
I cannot access the original report so must use the media coverage. It was presumably sent directly to the MSM with a handy summary to use as the coverage. The flaws are nevertheless visible. From AOL’s slightly more revealing report:
‘The charity said more than 6,000 older people (43%) across the 14 local authorities who responded to its Freedom of Information request waited more than six weeks for the services they required. The average time to receive an assessment to determine social care needs was three weeks across Scotland but was higher in the Western Isles, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Midlothian, Moray and Perth and Kinross. Previous research conducted by Age Scotland found that in 2015 the average waiting time was two-and-a-half weeks. Those local authorities who provided reasons for delays cited service pressures such as increased demand and limited resources.’
First, there are 32 local authorities in Scotland so only 44% responded. On its own, this undermines any conclusions and they must be presented as qualified by that. They are not, of course, and we get unsustainable phrases like ‘Older people waiting too long for care’
Second, only 43% of those represented in the sample had waited more than six weeks. So, only around a quarter of the total population might be waiting for more than six weeks.
Third, these returns were made by staff working for local authorities run by political parties and not by independent researchers. The reporting does not tell us how many of the 14 local authorities are run by Labour or Conservative administrations.
Fourth, even if we accepted the research at face value, it’s main finding would be that average waiting times may have gone up from 2.5 weeks to 3 weeks.
Finally, if we again accept the Age Concern findings, where is the essential contextual background – change in demand? You can see in the graph above that even if there is a lengthening of the wait for care packages of 20% (from 2.5 to 3 weeks) this has been against a background of 20 years of increasing demand.
Without consideration of context, proper transparent methods and responsible wording of conclusions to take account of limitations, this research and, even more so the media coverage, are worthless.
And, for more context: