Cuts in services leave dementia victims in fear

Dementia victims face crime wave on doorstep

A LOOMING £1bn cash crisis could leave dementia sufferers at greater threat from rogue traders who are exploiting cutbacks in social services to target some of the most vulnerable members of society.

Trading standards officers in Yorkshire have warned the rising numbers of pensioners who are suffering from mental illness are being placed at increased risk as care professionals are no longer available to ward off the advances of doorstep criminals.

The Alzheimer’s Society claims a £1bn funding gap is looming in social care nationally, as local authorities are forced to strip back resources to cope with the Government’s austerity measures. North Yorkshire County Council alone is faced with making savings of more than £90m across all its departments, and finance directors have warned front-line services including social care will be hit.

Many dementia sufferers will be left with a reduced level of care in their own homes, prompting fears they will be targeted by organised gangs of criminals who are travelling to the region to prey on the elderly.

An Alzheimer’s Society spokesman said: “Our population is getting older, putting more pressure on the social care system. Local authorities are increasingly limiting the amount of social care services they provide because of funding cuts. This is a huge issue because if people can’t get the support they need in the community, they will often end up reaching crisis point earlier and ending up needing NHS treatment, which costs a lot more.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed in March that a nationwide network of rogue traders is preying on dementia sufferers amid warnings that the problem will grow as mental illness among the elderly soars. Victims in Yorkshire have paid up to £250,000 to offenders who have duped them out of vast sums of money for shoddy repairs to roofs and driveways and for gardening.

There is evidence of fraudsters travelling from as far away as the South-West, the Home Counties and the Midlands to target specific properties in Yorkshire, with details of vulnerable residents being passed on in a blackmarket trade between offenders.

North Yorkshire County Council’s trading standards officers are involved in five separate major inquiries where victims suffering from mental illness have been targeted. The head of fraud and financial investigations, Ruth Andrews, admitted dementia sufferers left without support could be among the first targeted.

She added: “In many investigations that we deal with, it is the case that very elderly people suffering with dementia live alone and, in some cases, receive no support or care. These are the most vulnerable victims and the ones which offenders of this type will take the most advantage of.

“Even for those receiving support, these offenders become adept at establishing when the victim is at home alone, and consequently take the opportunity to exploit them to the fullest at these times. It is therefore essential that care and health resources are made available to these victims, to ensure they are protected as much as possible.”

Latest estimates suggest there are more than 99,000 diagnosed and undiagnosed dementia sufferers in Yorkshire, with that figure forecast to rise to over 125,000 by 2021.

The Department of Health stressed eligibility for healthcare is based on an individual’s needs and not a specific condition, and updated guidance is due to be published.

A spokesman added: “Where appropriate, a representative for the individual can play a central role in the assessment process.”