A Midland local authority ranked excellent by the Government has been warned it must "turbo charge" its social services if it is to meet the challenges posed by a rapidly ageing population.
A review into Warwickshire County Council's services for older people recommended radical changes in approach including a greater role for the independent sector.
The study was also critical of high staff sickness levels, particularly among home helps where 32,450 days were lost through illness during 2004.
The unwanted record places Warwickshire in the bottom half of local authority absenteeism records and on a par with Birmingham, where Social Services have been assessed as failing.
However, Warwickshire remains one of a few local authorities to be rated excellent by the audit commission and has previously been praised for the standard of its Social Services and schools.
The review, chaired by Dame Yve Buckland, found that Warwickshire could save £63,000 a year by reducing
home care sickness levels from an average ten per cent of staff absent to four per cent.
The recommended national CBI average for sickness is between three and four per cent. Dame Yve pointed out that half of Warwickshire residents will be over the age of 50 by 2121.
A survey of Warwickshire villages found that more than half of Parish council failed to organise events aimed specifically at older people, while only 15 per cent had developed strategies for supporting older people in the community.
Although Warwickshire spends £40 million a year on home care only a small proportion of those in need are actually receiving help. Social care is effectively rationed to people who have an assessed critical of substantial need.
Dame Yve's review, which was ordered by the County Council, was supportive of Warwickshire's strategy of handing a higher proportion of home care services to the independent sector.
She was critical of the council's charging policy for home helps, which was described as "over complex and confusing to the users."
The average hourly rate across the country for home care is £9, according to Age Concern. Warwickshire's average is between £2.32 and £6.50 an hour, although the system is loaded so that people who receive more than 14 hours of help a week pay a higher rate.
Dame Yve said Warwickshire had ambitious plans to change the way it provided Social Services.
She added: "We should not problematise older people. They are a really significant resource and we should be concentrating on helping them to live longer and to live independent lives and keeping them out of care."
She said Warwickshire needed to make sure that its social care workforce was fit for purpose.
"They need to be sharp, able and flexible to deal with the pressures. Things need to be turbocharged if you are really going to achieve the kind of vision for the way the services should be going," she said.
Dame Yve said the council was aware that it had to tackle absenteeism.
She said: "Sickness levels clearly need to be addressed. They are a drag on the development of the department."