Thousands of older people in Wales in need of social care are being left to either cope as best they can by themselves or rely on unpaid care from family and friends.

And many of these unpaid carers are close to breaking point, according to a new report by Age Cymru.

It says that while those with the most urgent needs are being supported, thousands are being left struggling on lengthy waiting lists.

The longest reported wait for an individual to be assessed by a local authority was 1,122 days.

At the same time the charity’s advice services recorded an 89% surge in enquiries about community care up from 2,787 in the pre-pandemic year to 5,254 in 2022/23.

These were the stark findings of Age Cymru’s report ‘Why are we still waiting?’ based on discussions with local authorities in Wales and with the charity’s advice and various support services, as well as analysis from its annual survey What matters to you.

One person spoken to as part of this research said about the huge challenges they faced in trying to get social care: “I’ve been providing a lot of unpaid care to my mother, despite having my own health conditions which has made coping very difficult.

“I have been struggling to keep on top of information as well as help my mum with numerous health appointments.

“When I finally contacted social services for help in April 2023, I was told that there will be a twelve month wait for my mum to have a care assessment.

“Since contacting social services, I’ve not had any contact from them at all, despite explaining why my mum needs the help so badly.”

The report says it is vital that earlier help becomes available and calls for an urgent focus on those waiting more than a month for an assessment.

Another woman said: “I have cared for my husband for 11 years without a break. It is physically and mentally draining.”

It found poor communication with older people waiting for care in local authorities across Wales, adding that the information they receive also needs to be improved.

There is a concern that the real picture could be worse due to differences in data collection, so it calls on the Welsh Government to help local authorities improve their recording systems.

The report urges regional partnership boards, local authorities, third sector service providers, and community groups to work together to improve the availability of intervention and prevention services, adding that the third sector needs to be sustainably funded on a longer-term basis.

It also urges local authorities to share good practice and to speed up efforts to provide help for unpaid carers – many of whom are struggling to cope. And it calls on local authorities to assess whether their information and advice to support older people is accessible to the thousands of people who are digitally excluded.

Despite the huge pressures, the report says local authorities are working hard to reduce waiting lists by introducing innovative working practices.

For example, several authorities are encouraging the development of micro enterprises to deliver lower-level care needs. Others are introducing community-based activities such as gardening and walking, and support closer to where people live.

However, it says local authority efforts have been hampered by the cost-of-living crisis and a less healthy Welsh population with more complex needs following the pandemic.

Age Cymru’s chief executive Victoria Lloyd said: “We’ve known for some time that social care in Wales has been struggling, with many older people and their carers not getting the support and care they need to live a dignified life.

“However, what this report shows is the extent of the problem which runs deeply in all areas of Wales.

“It also demonstrates the need for urgent action so that older people are not kept waiting for lengthy periods while their health and well-being deteriorates.

“And whichever models of care we develop it is crucial that we place older people and their needs and aspirations at the heart of social care, and we must all recognise care staff for their professionalism and dedication”

To read the full report visit or call 029 2043 1571 for a paper copy.

If you would like to share your experiences of accessing social care, please call Helen Twidle on 029 2043 1571 or email [email protected]