Strained social care at increased risk of collapse

The Local Government Association has warned that the adult social care system is at an increased risk of collapse as increasing strain is being put on the health and well-being of millions of unpaid carers.

Alongside Carers UK, council leaders argue that a large proportion of the 5.7 million unpaid carers in England are unable to take a break from their demanding role looking after people with complex needs, leaving them at at increasing risk of needing care and support themselves. In fact, 72 per cent of carers in England have suffered mental ill health, such as stress and depression, while 61 per cent have experienced physical ill health due to caring.

However, 20 per cent of carers in England responding to Carers UK’s State of Caring Survey, the majority of them caring well over 50 hours a week, have not received a carer’s assessment in the past year. It would cost an estimated £150 million to provide these assessments alone which will help to identify their own support needs, which the LGA argues would be more cost-effective than having to pay long-term costs for social care and emergency hospital care.

The two organisations urge the government to include the cost of these assessments in the long-term solution to paying for adult social care and for sufficient funding to ensure services, such as carers’ breaks, are available to all carers who need them.

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Unpaid carers are the backbone of the care system, many of whom are unable to take a break, putting their own health on the line. Without these unsung heroes the system would collapse. But this vital network of family carers is at an increasing risk of breaking down due to the nature of the job, rising costs and demands for care, and the crisis in adult social care funding.

“Carers need breaks. Devoting significant time to unpaid care can not only lead to a downturn in carers’ health, it can also make it hard for them to maintain social relationships, keep working or learning, which could affect their financial security. More people are caring for a loved one than ever before and councils remain committed to helping carers, but significantly reduced funding is making this difficult.

“Councils in England receive 1.8 million new requests for adult social care a year – the equivalent of nearly 5,000 a day - and there is a £3.5 billion funding gap facing adult social care by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care. We cannot duck this issue as a society any longer. Our green paper is the start of a nationwide public debate about the future of care for all adults, including unpaid carers, and how best to support their wellbeing and rescue the services caring for older and disabled people from collapse.”

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