A gathering of social care providers has been told it needs to raise the volume of its protests over the crisis hitting the sector.
The Independent Care Group heard about a ‘perfect storm’ which was putting at risk the very existence of providers who care for older and vulnerable adults.
There were calls for a referendum on social care and for providers to stand as MPs or councillors to raise the profile.
The Group’s chair, Mike Padgham said: “We currently have four factors creating a perfect storm – ever increasing demand for more and more complex care; greater and greater scrutiny of that care; tighter and tighter budgets to work in and rapidly rising costs – including the National Living Wage.
“We have a sector in crisis: more and more people going without care, care homes and domiciliary care agencies folding or on the brink, and greater and greater pressure on the NHS.”
He said providers had to find ways to make a Government preoccupied with Brexit and infrastructure like roads and railways, wake up to the plight of health and social care.
“I say we should have a referendum on social care and ask the country if it wants to pay a little more so that our older citizens – and that will include all of us soon enough – can have some proper care in our later years?”
He questioned whether providers had to stand as councillors or MPs to get the message heard. And he said the independent sector, which provided services more cost-effectively than in-house provision, had some answers.
“We need proper integration of social care and health services so we can move away from a hospital-based care system and towards an era when we have social care and health services working hand in hand to keep people happy and healthy, from the cradle to the grave,” he told delegates.
“We need to encourage, not discourage, providers to invest. Maybe through VAT changes or other incentives. And how about creating a system where independent providers remain independent but have local contracts – like the GP model?
“We need to recognise and use the independent sector more – the case has already been made that independent providers do things more cost-effectively than costly in-house provision; commissioners just need to acknowledge it and take advantage.
“It is time for action – no more reports, no more commissions, together we have to seize the day and fight for a better deal for social care. For everyone we care for, we have to say: “You deserve better” and go out there and fight harder than ever for it!”
David Brindle, The Guardian’s Public Services Editor, chaired the conference and told delegates that they had to raise the volume on social care’s crisis.
Across the country care homes are closing and homecare providers are handing back contracts as the financial squeeze on social care providers continues. Bodies, including the inspection body the Care Quality Commission and Association of Director of Social Services (ADASS) are warning that social care is at “tipping point”.
Latest statistics make grim reading: 1m people are now living with unmet care needs; social care spending has been cut by £5bn+ since 2009-10; and 26% fewer people are getting the help they need.
A £2.8bn funding gap is predicted by 2019-20 and in domiciliary care alone a £500m funding gap has been identified.
Between 2009 and 2015 the number of people receiving local authority-funded domiciliary care fell by 20%. The UKHCA and ADASS both report providers handing back “unsustainable” contracts.
On care homes, a quarter of homes in the UK – some 5,000 – are said to be in danger of going out of business, after 3,000 homes closed in the six months up to Sept 2015.
The Number of nursing homes fell from 4,697 to 4,633 in 2015-2016 – the first decline in five years.
Keynote speaker Neil Eastwood, founder of award-winning recruitment experts Sticky People, gave advice on how to get the right staff and keep them.