EDINBURGH is facing a population explosion over the next 20 years, with authorities warning housing and public services will be placed under immense strain as the city swells to an incredible 600,000 people.
A report produced by Edinburgh City Council has projected the Capital will have the highest population growth of ANYWHERE in Scotland, hitting the projected residents’ total by 2033.
Births are expected to outpace deaths by an average of 900 a year from 2010 to 2025, combining with annual migration of 4200 people to Edinburgh. The two factors are expected to fuel a population boom far higher than originally expected. Forecasts that the number of people aged 85 and over in Edinburgh will double by 2034 have prompted warnings from the council that increased funding will need to be poured into housing conversions, accessible transport, and leisure facilities geared towards the elderly.
Previous projections had estimated the city’s population would only reach 551,000 across the same period.
The submission to the Scottish Parliament finance committee about demographic change obtained by the News yesterday also revealed:
n The number of households in Edinburgh will grow by 43 per cent, or 95,500, in the next 25 years – faster than anywhere else in Scotland
n The number of deaths recorded in Edinburgh in 2010 were the lowest on record, while births last year were conversely the highest recorded
n Life expectancy among men has grown by six-and-a-half years in the past 25 years, and by five years among women
n The greatest overall increase in population to 2025 will be amongst 35-44 year olds – meaning we will still have a largely youthful population
n The number of people aged 85-plus who are living alone will climb from 5500 in 2010 to 11,700 in 2035.
The figures are based on estimates and 2010-based projections published by the National Records for Scotland, which recorded Edinburgh’s population at 486,120 last year.
The council’s report said: “It is important to note that all council services will need to be geared towards an increasing proportion of older people in future, and this transformation will need to be planned and budgeted for. For example, there is likely to be a need for more investment in accessible transport, upgrading and maintenance of footpaths, and leisure services which contribute to wellbeing and community participation by older people.”
The council predicted an extra £13.4 million would be required in just five years’ time to fund social care for adults with learning disabilities.
Almost £5m has been committed in the city’s next health and social care budget to pay for the booming number of people living for longer with complex needs. In 2013-14, an additional £2m has been set aside for older people, who account for 54 per cent of the department’s total spend, while an extra £2.8m has been found for adults with disabilities, on whom 40 per cent of the budget is spent.
The cash, in addition to the current £182m budget, will go towards expanding council services so that they can keep up with spiralling numbers.
The city’s health leader, Ricky Henderson, said meeting the challenge of providing for more and more people was “the single biggest issue for public services in the UK”.
He said: “The figures are telling us that demand for our services is just going to continue to rise.
“There’s more of an emphasis on us to provide community care services while moving away from having older people in hospital for too long because we know that’s not good for their health and wellbeing.
“There is also a growing population of people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities, in part again because of advances in medicine and healthcare.”
Over coming years the Government has ordered local authorities and NHS boards to work more closely to deliver care, which could see budgets pooled to create stronger links between hospitals and community services. Monica Boyle, the council’s head of older people and disability services, said: “This is good news that people are actually living longer and healthier and often they are contributing to caring for other people.
“When you look at the number of unpaid carers a very high proportion are older people, particularly those caring for people with dementia.
The need for affordable housing has also been listed as a key priority.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman and deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said Edinburgh’s health system was equally unprepared for a rapidly ageing population.
The party has warned that twice the number of hospital beds will be needed over the next two decades to cope with Scotland’s ageing population. Mr Carlaw said: “Warnings about demographic challenges from those on our frontline seem to be becoming more grave by the month.
“If something isn’t done, we will be left in a situation where our NHS boards are only firefighting, meaning funding will be taken away from all kinds of important challenges.
“The Scottish Government needs to act now to alleviate this pressure in future years. Hospitals are already running under extremely strained circumstances and that will intensify as more people are admitted.”
Higher education worries
ACHIEVING higher education for their three young children remains the biggest concern for parents Hilary Brown and Rob Munn ahead of the living pressures caused by a booming Edinburgh population.
The Leith couple’s children, aged 12, ten and five, will all be of a working age by 2033 when the Capital’s size is expected to hit 600,000.
Ms Brown said: “I’m living in hope that they’ll still get a free university education. If we don’t, a family like us could not afford to send our children to university without tuition fees being paid for. It just wouldn’t happen.
“I’d like all children to be able to do that regardless of parental income, and then I’d like them to be able to get a job. Unfortunately, they aren’t things that the council funds, that’s the only thing.”
Kate’s indebted to specialist carers
KATE Duffield knows all too well about the importance of community services for older people, which are coming under increasing strain due to the Capital’s demographic explosion.
After she suffered a stroke in May, she relied on NHS Lothian staff at the Astley Ainslie Hospital to get the movement in the left side of her body back.
The 70-year-old, from Marchmont, was then transferred into the care of the council, and with the help of their community-based staff she is now making good progress.
She is full of praise the local authority workers, who initially visited her five times a week, but says she has witnessed the strain the service is under first hand.
Mrs Duffield, who now visits the council-run Firrhill Centre once a week, said: “The staff have got the patience to deal with anybody with a disability, but I think staffing is an issue and you do need extra equipment when you’re disabled. My left arm is still like a piece of dead meat, but considering I’m only five months in I’ve recovered incredibly well, and that’s all down to the physio and exercise. If it wasn’t for that I’d be stuck in hospital or in some nursing home. At the Firrhill Centre they provide transport and social interaction.
“A lot of people would be isolated if it wasn’t for that.”