New figures reveal the difficulties facing England’s social care sector before the pandemic, with more people requesting support but fewer getting the help they needed. The data puts further pressure on the government to commit to reform of social care in next week’s Queen’s Speech.
The new data is part of Social care 360, The King’s Fund’s annual assessment of the state of the social care sector. The overall picture is of deep decline, with many key indicators continuing to move in the wrong direction.
Between 2015/16 and 2019/20, 120,000 more people requested social care support but around 14,000 fewer people received either long- or short-term support.*
‘Following a decade of neglect, there is a continuing gulf between what people need and what they receive,’ says lead author Simon Bottery, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund. ‘The latest data paints a bleak picture with few causes for optimism. Even where measures have improved, there are often caveats. Local authority spending on social care has finally returned to the levels of 2010/11 but not if you take population growth into account; spending per person has fallen. Care worker pay has improved but is not rising as fast as other sectors so vacancies remain high.’
‘Demand is likely to go on increasing but local authorities do not have the money to meet it. If we are to avoid reporting on a further bleak round of indicators in future years, we urgently need the long-term, wide-ranging reform for adult social care that the Prime Minister promised after the general election.’
The report highlights six key actions that will be needed to improve and reform social care in the years ahead.
- More money is needed to fund the current system, with an estimated £1.9 billion extraneeded simply to meet demand for adult social care by 2023/24. Funding is also needed to meet unmet need, improve the quality of services and cover the additional costs of Covid-19.
- Eligibility should be widened so more people are entitled to support.
- Workforce reform is essential to deliver better pay, training and development for staff.
- People need more control over the services they use, with government action needed to increase the number and quality of direct payments and support other ways of promoting choice and control.
- Prevention should take centre stage, with more investment in services such as reablement.
- Carers have taken on an even greater burden during the pandemic and need more support.