Social care crisis leaves 500,000 adults waiting for care
More than half a million adults in England are waiting for social care assistance, says the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), as staff shortages continue to impact the provision of care.
According to Adass’ research, the number of people waiting for either social care assessments, direct payments or reviews of their care has risen sharply over the last year. The research marks a 72 per cent rise in the numbers waiting for support, as similar research last year put the figure at about 294,000.
Adass president Sarah McClinton said the figures represent “a devastating impact on people’s lives,” while the government has said that reforming social care is a priority.
Published in May 2022, the Adass report, Waiting for Care, found that during the first three months of 2022, an average of 170,000 hours a week of home care could not be delivered due to workforce shortages, and that 61 per cent of councils were having to prioritise care assessments.
“The situation is getting worse”
The report states the capacity of the care sector to deliver on people’s needs has been sharply reduced, at the same time as England’s ageing population develops ever more complex care requirements.
It says that “despite staff working relentlessly over the last two years, levels of unmet, under-met or wrongly-met needs are increasing, and the situation is getting worse. The growing numbers of people needing care and the increasing complexity of their needs are far outstripping the capacity to meet them.”
The report also says that the government’s focus “of resources on acute hospitals without addressing care and support at home, means people deteriorate and even more will need hospital care.”
Adass argue that not only are people waiting longer for care, “but family carers are having to shoulder greater responsibility and are being asked to take paid or unpaid leave from work when care and support are not available for their family members.”
This was echoed by Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, who has said the current state of social care is putting “even more pressure on even more families who are propping up a chronic shortage of services.”
Changes welcome, but not enough
The government states publicly that fixing social care in England is a priority, and the Health and Social Care Levy passed last month will see £5.4 billion invested into social care over the next three years, including £3.6 billion to reform the charging system for social care and a further £1.7 billion to begin “major improvements” to the sector. The added funding is cautiously welcomed, but critics argue the government needs to go further.
However, ADASS president Sarah McClinton said: “We have not seen the bounceback in services after the pandemic in the way we had hoped. In fact, the situation is getting worse rather than better. Social care is far from fixed.
“The Health and Social Care reforms go some way to tackle the issue of how much people contribute to the cost of their care, but it falls short in addressing social care’s most pressing issues: how we respond to rapidly increasing unmet need for essential care and support and resolve the workforce crisis by properly valuing care professionals.”
Responding to the ADASS report, Miriam Deakin, Director of Policy and Strategy at NHS Providers said: “This valuable report paints a worrying picture of unmet care needs and lays bare the pressures on the social care system, which are having a serious knock-on effect on individuals’ quality of life and independence, as well as the timely discharge of patients from hospital.
“Although hospital patients who are medically fit for discharge are made a priority for assessment, any delay to those assessments means a delay to people receiving the care they need and makes it difficult to maintain the flow of patients through the NHS.
“Equally worrying is the obvious need for more support to help people stay well and live independent lives in the community which would in many cases prevent, or delay, any need for hospital care.
“We must recognise the efforts of social care staff delivering more care in people’s homes over the last year and ensure they are paid appropriately to acknowledge their valued contribution.
“The ADASS report highlights once again the urgent need to properly fund and reform the adult social care system.”