Overall the charity answered a total of 54,000 calls[ii] to its advice line, Age UK Advice, over the winter period[iii], from people looking for information on a range of issues such as paying for care, care assessments, hospital discharge, home care services and benefits checks.[iv] This represented an eight per cent rise in total calls from the previous year, with the vast majority of the calls – nearly 37,000[v] – from older people themselves, an increase of 12% on the previous year.
Many of the calls the Charity receives are from family members as they are often the ones to notice a significant difference in the health or circumstances of an older relative if they haven’t seen them for a while. Concern often peaks over the traditional holidays such as the Christmas period when families get together – in fact Age UK saw a 32 per cent increase in calls to its national advice line from adult children over Christmas 2016 compared to the year before.
Advice about residential care, including questions on paying for residential and nursing care and arranging financial or care assessments, topped the list of enquiries that came through to the Charity’s level 2 advisers who handle longer, more complex enquiries and provide specific advice tailored to the individual’s circumstances.[vi]
The top 5 issues (in order) that generated calls to Age UK Advice over the winter were:
1. Residential care
2. Health and disability
3. Legal advice
4. Non-residential care
5. Money benefits
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: 'The increase in calls to our advice line this winter throws a spotlight on the high numbers of older people who are now seeking help on a wide range of issues.
'Whilst it’s reassuring that people are turning to us for help and advice, we know that there are many more who are still unaware of the additional assistance and support that could be available for them or their loved one. In this time of uncertainty with social care Age UK Advice is a good place to turn for free impartial advice. As we leave winter behind for another year we would urge anyone who is worried about themselves, or an older family member or friend, to get in touch with us – by calling Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65, visiting our website or contacting their local Age UK.'
Last year, Age UK helped over five million older people with information and advice on a broad range of issues such as claiming benefits, housing options, paying for care and support, staying healthy, and making the most of the internet. Age UK’s range of free, impartial information guides are also free to download and available to view online. As well as publishing guides and factsheets, the Charity offers essential support on a wide range of issues via its website and free Advice line.