The government’s pledge to try to make England a world leader in elderly care is at risk of becoming “superficial” words, council chiefs are warning.

The Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said the social care crisis had to be solved first.

The target of becoming the “one of the best” in terms of elderly care was made by the health secretary last month.

Jeremy Hunt will be expanding on the aim in a speech later.

He is expected to tell the annual ADASS conference in Eastbourne on Thursday that he wants England to become “one of the best countries in Europe to be old” and that councils “must take the lead”.

To help, he will be announcing a £50m fund for hospitals and care homes to help pay for improvements to help patients with dementia.

These could include things such as hi-tech lighting, smells and sound to stimulate those with the condition.

‘Danger of collapsing’

But the two groups have warned that mainstream services are under too much strain to achieve the goal.

A joint analysis they have produced has shown nearly £2bn has been trimmed from the social care budget in the past two years – a cut of nearly 15%.

It predicts the funding gap will get worse in the coming years, partly because of the growing demands of the ageing population.

And it goes on to say that unless councils are given extra money, other budgets, including those covering leisure, libraries and transport, will have to be raided.

The government is considering reforming the system to cap the costs individuals have to pay. This was an idea put forward by the Dilnot Commission last year.

But the two groups have argued that such a change while helping individuals avoid huge costs, will do nothing to solve the funding problem they are facing.

ADASS president Sarah Pickup said the Dilnot proposals were just “one piece of the puzzle”.

In reference to Mr Hunt’s call made at the Conservative Party conference earlier this month that England should become the “best in the world” at caring for the elderly, Ms Pickup said if an answer was not found all that talk would be just “superficial” words.

“At the moment [social care] is a minimum wage industry. We have to think about what good care costs and be prepared to pay it.”

David Rogers, from the Local Government Association, said: “The current care system is in danger of collapsing.

“Unless we see urgent action, the growing funding crisis threatens our ability to provide basic daily services that older people rely on, such as help with washing, getting out of bed and meals on wheels.”

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