Ahead of the Autumn Statement, VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group), the national body representing leading not-for-profit disability support providers, has published True Costs: Why we cannot ignore the failure in social care funding.
The report is a stark warning to government that the chronic under-funding of social care must be reversed. It pinpoints three key challenges faced by voluntary sector providers of adult social care, which mean that funding is insufficient:
- increasing demand for services
- rising costs of providing services
- workforce recruitment and retention problems
VODG’s report stresses that demand for services is rising; by 2025 there will be 11.7 million disabled people in England. This group of people, representing more than 20% of our population, is also ageing, which means that more older people will need disability-specific support.
Action is vital as the need for support is growing just as funding for that support is dwindling. Since 2010, for example, cumulative adult social care savings have amounted to £6.3bn, according to the Association of Directions of Adult Social Services. Voluntary sector providers are disproportionately affected by such budget cuts because the people they mainly support are publicly funded.
In addition, staff turnover is high and increasing in the adult social care sector, at 31% in 2016 up from 25% in 2015. And national figures show that in 2017, were an estimated 90,000 vacancies across the adult social care sector at any given time.
The report acknowledges that adult social care has won some additional funding (for example, the Improved Better Care Fund and the Adult Social Care Precept), but this is a drop in the ocean given the demand, rising costs and workforce issues.
In addition, there are other pressures on the sector like the average hourly rate paid to providers increased with the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW). The retrospective requirement to provide NLW back-pay to sleep-in shift workers for up to six years would ruin many providers and impact on many individual disabled people who employ personal assistants through personal budgets. Finally, Brexit has the potential to create much instability, as VODG has previously argued. An estimated 90,000 (7%) adult social care jobs in England are filled by EU workers.
If social care support fails, there will not only be harmful implications for the millions who use these services, but on the NHS as demand increases for emergency care.
To create a strong, sustainable solution for social care, the report demands that government must take decisive action, including:
- identifying a long term, sustainable funding solution particularly for working age adults
- dropping the retrospective action to recover mistaken underpayment of NLW for sleep-in shifts from some providers
- work with relevant bodies, VODG included, to develop a plan for a sustainable social care workforce.
VODG chief executive Dr Rhidian Hughes said:
“The issue of squeezed funding, increasing demand, increasing costs and workforce challenges has wider ramifications. There will be a direct impact on the lives of disabled people as well as a knock-on effect on other public sector services such as the NHS. The government must develop a strong, sustainable funding plan for social care unless it wants to risk damaging both the quality and quantity of support services available to people who most rely on them.”