England’s counties see elderly population ‘boom’ over the last decade, with over 1 million more over 65s living in those areas

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2022 | 15 July 2022

The elderly population of England’s county and rural areas has swelled by over a million people during the past decade, a new report has revealed.

The analysis, carried out by the County Councils Network (CCN), shows for the first time in history, county and rural areas now have as many people aged over 65 as children and young people.

Download the report Census 2021: Population Change in Counties here.

The CCN warns that this demographic shift is adding significant pressure to adult social care services. But funding from government has failed to keep up with these changes, with county authorities receiving money based on an ‘outdated’ funding formula.

Because of this, social care services in county and rural areas are hundreds of millions of pounds worse off compared to cities and large towns in England – with these councils facing a further multi-billion-pound shortfall from next year’s planned care reforms.

The analysis of Census data shows that between 2011 and 2021, those aged 65 and over grew by 1.1m (23.3%) in county areas, while the number those aged 0-19 rose by just 72,000 (1.3%), meaning the number of new over 65s outnumbered children and young people by a ratio 15 to 1.

In contrast, the ratio of new over 65s to children and young people in towns and cities in the North and West Midlands was 3 to 1 and in London 2 to 1, with the combined growth in older people in these areas 400,000.

The government had attempted to address how funding is distributed for social care services in its Fair Funding Review, but this has been delayed due to the pandemic.

Analysis for CCN shows that if the government had implemented a new funding formula for social care services the government previously developed as part of its long-promised reforms, county and rural councils would be receiving at least £440m additional funding each year.

This is because the formula that currently distributes funding fails to take into account the growth in those over 65s since 2011 and increased demand for services in county and rural areas.

But county leaders are warning the underfunding of care services could become dramatically worse over the next decade, exacerbated by the ‘boom’ in rural elderly populations and disproportionate impact of adult social care reforms.

From October 2023, flagship reforms to adult social care will be introduced, including a more generous means-test, a cap on care costs of £86,000, a move towards a ‘fair’ cost of care, and the ability for people who arrange and fund their own care to ask their local authority to do it on their behalf.

A recent report for CCN showed these reforms could leave county and rural councils with a funding deficit of £7.6bn over the next decade. CCN warns that unless the government provides more funding and changes the way it allocates resources between councils this could mean the quality and accessibility of care is worsened further in these areas.

With the government expected to announce a funding consultation later this month to determine the distribution of council funding to implement the reforms, CCN is calling on the next government to fully fund the reforms and implement a new formula to ensure county and rural areas receive a fair share of resources.

Cllr Martin Tett, County Councils Network Adult Social Care Spokesperson, said:

“Over the last ten years we have seen an elderly population boom in county areas, with the increase in over 65s far outstripping rises in other parts of the country. This continues the demographic trends we’ve seen in counties for decades, with more people are living longer or choosing to live in England’s counties.

“This is to be welcomed. But we also must recognise that the dramatic increase in over 65s in county and rural areas will have a significant impact on adult social care services. The failure to reform an outdated council funding formula has left social care services in these areas already hundreds of millions of pounds worse off.

“The reforms to social care in England will have a further disproportionate impact on county areas. Unless the government provides more funding and changes the distribution of money for its flagship adult social care reforms, the quality and accessibility of care services could be further worsened.”


CCN analysis of Census data for over 65s and those aged 0-19, by area type:

Area Over 65s – 2011 Over 65s – 2021 Change 0-19 – 2011 0-19: 2021 Change
County & CCN Unitary 4,614,185 5,690,500 1,076,315 (+23.3%) 5,656,925 5,729,400 72,475


Metropolitan Boroughs* 1,7784,497 2,044,300 265,805
2,876,017 2,978,000 101,983
London 904,749 1,043,800 139,051


2,002,828 2,085,400 82,572

*Metropolitan Boroughs are local authorities that cover cities and towns in the West Midlands and the North

  • The £440m figure in this press release is based on modelling carried out for CCN by Pixel. Pixel modelled the effect of a possible new adult social care formula based on the proposals from the Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU), developed in response to the 2015 Care Act reforms and expected to be introduced as part of the relative of relative needs and resources (fair funding review). The £440m increase in funding for CCN member councils represents the difference between distributing all current core adult social care funding and social care grants via this formula compared to the current adult social care relative needs formula.
  • You can read the report which outlines that county areas face a funding deficit of £7.6bn due to the government’s proposed adult social care reforms here.