Joyce Hall with a Red Cross volunteer who helped her regain her independence after she broke her arm Joyce waited an agonising two days before going to hospital with a badly broken arm. She couldn’t just go to the hospital – she had her younger brother to think about.

As the sole carer for Lenny, who has epilepsy and learning difficulties, she was worried about leaving him alone. He was unable to do everyday tasks like getting dressed and feeding himself.

But after two days of pain she had little choice.

The British Red Cross met Joyce for the first time when she was discharged from the hospital and referred to our support at home service.

We were able to help her not just through her recovery, but find more support for her and Lenny from other services in the long-term too.

But with six consecutive years of budget cuts and an increasing demand on health and social care services, the system in England has become unsustainable. The care people like Joyce and Lenny need, is at risk.

Meeting Joyce

When Red Cross staff met Joyce to take her home from hospital, they were immediately concerned for her. She seemed anxious.

Realising Joyce was a diabetic they bought her a carton of juice and a sandwich to make sure her blood sugar levels were steady. But when she still seemed on edge, they realised something else was wrong.

It was then they learned that she had had to leave her younger brother Lenny home alone to come to hospital.

Over the next 48-hours, they helped Joyce get home safely and prepared an evening meal for her and Lenny. They also went food shopping to fill the fridge with essentials.

When Joyce had to go back into hospital a few days later for an operation to pin her arm, the Red Cross alerted social services so that Lenny could be found respite care. This time he wouldn’t have to stay home alone without care.

As for Joyce, we gave her a mobile phone so she could call Lenny every day from hospital to make sure he was ok. And we also let some of Joyce’s friends know she was in hospital so that they could visit and give her some much-needed company too.

Greater independence

Six weeks later, Joyce was back to her bright and chatty self. The avid Hull City FC fan was watching home games again and looking forward to having her arm out of the sling.

But the Red Cross was able to do more than just help Joyce while she was on the mend. By getting to know her and Lenny, we were able to direct the pair to lots of other services that could help them going forward.

For example, we contacted the council’s housing department to get Joyce and Lenny on the list for a flat in an assisted housing scheme. Here there would be people on call 24 hours a day to provide extra help if they needed it.

We also directed Joyce towards more support caring for Lenny. Now carers come every morning to help him get dressed and he visits a day centre more frequently. His new independence has improved life for both siblings.

A broader crisis

However, the kind of long-term services that support people like Joyce and Lenny are under pressure from increasing demand, and threatened by a lack of funding.

Real Lives‘, a new report released this week by the Richmond Group of Charities and published in partnership with the Red Cross and the Royal Voluntary Society, investigates the state of social care through the eyes of individuals and families relying on the system.

Joyce and Lenny’s story is one of several used in it. The report complements the release of the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust report, ‘Social care for older people: Home truths‘.

The Red Cross helps increase people’s independence and wellbeing after a health crisis – but the current health and social care system risks more people reaching the point of crisis.

The system needs reform with immediate investment and a focus on funding preventative services. Without, it will be unable to prevent crisis or meet the aspirations of the Care Act 2014