By politics.co.uk staff
Local authorities are likely to struggle with the rising costs of looking after elderly people if they do not innovate to achieve savings, the Audit Commission has warned.
Its 'Under Pressure' report attacks councils for not knowing enough about the costs of their ageing population and warns savings from preventive services could be missed.
The report underlines the growing prominence of the social care debate which has raged in Westminster in recent days.
The parties are divided on how to implement reforms to existing care arrangements, after Gordon Brown pledged to provide free care at home to around 250,000 of the most needy.
"There are huge financial pressures on councils in the years ahead, but redesigning services and exploiting technology can make them better, more efficient and more personal," Audit Commission chair Michael O'Higgins said.
"Some councils are showing the way, tackling the causes of ill-health and social isolation, reducing the need for expensive social care and helping people live well in later life."
Flexicare, telecare and 'neighbourhood networks' are helping lower the costs of care in places like North Yorkshire, Essex and Leeds, for example.
Britain's changing demographics will increase the percentage of the population aged over 50 in the coming decades. In 1982 this stood at 30%, but by 2026 it will reach 40%.