A new survey by Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), which received responses from 94 of the 152 English councils responsible for social services, has found that 49 councils are taking at least one exceptional measure to prioritise care and assess risk for at least some of their area for some of the time. These measures are regarded as the least acceptable.
This includes e.g. prioritising life sustaining care such as supporting someone to eat over supporting someone to get out of bed or complete other activities. It also includes being unable to undertake reviews of risk or to rely on the views of providers, family carers or people using services themselves to identify risks; and leaving people with dementia, learning disabilities or poor mental health isolated or alone for longer periods than usual. These drastic measures must not become the norm.
The root of the current situation, says ADASS lies in the failure to both sustainably fund adult social care over the last decade, and to properly recognise and reward the committed, courageous and compassionate people working in social care.
A spokesperson said: “The reality is that opportunities to ensure that adult social care was robust enough to withstand the current challenges posed by Omicron have been repeatedly missed, and any money that has been forthcoming, though welcome, has been too little, too late.”
“The pandemic has disproportionately affected people who need adult social care and family carers, widening existing inequalities. Recent talk has been about ‘riding out the current wave’, however, when the threat from Omicron recedes, the fundamental challenges for adult social care will remain. Those of us who are older, disabled, carers and people working in social care need recognition of the crisis, funding to aid recovery, more of the Health and Social Care Levy to support adult social care and recognition of the essential nature of social care.”
“As we made clear before Christmas, we are now in the midst of a national crisis for adult social care and every local authority is having to take extraordinary steps to try and ensure people continue to get the care and support they need.”
“Social care already faced a dire situation before the pandemic with 100,000 vacancies and staff leaving for better pay in shops and bars. This has only been compounded by increasing numbers of staff off sick or isolating due to Omicron meaning every director working with colleagues across the council has had to take incredibly difficult decisions to determine who gets care and support, who gets less care and who misses out, and how to allocate what care and support is available. These are decisions that no-one wants to take.”
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said: “We are deeply worried by these latest findings. Unpaid carers are already at breaking point, exhausted after nearly two years of caring with little or no outside support. The impact of Omicron on a social care system that was already on the brink of collapse before the pandemic, means even more pressure on even more families who are propping up a chronic shortage of services.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are now waiting for an assessment or service. Our recent State of Caring 2021 research published in November found that only 24% of carers had received a carer’s assessment or re-assessment in the last 12 months – when many of these carers’ situations have got worse. One in five carers (19%) said they had waited over six months for the assessment.
“We fully support calls for sustainable funding for social care of an extra £7 billion at least, without which many thousands of carers and families will simply be unable to cope and we’ll see the unacceptable inequalities that unpaid carers and their families already face, widen.”