More social care demand, but less support offered

New analysis from The King’s Fund shows that the proportion of working-age adults approaching local authorities for social care support is rising, but fewer are receiving help as demand leaves the system at crisis point.

England’s increasing older population is fuelling greater demand for services, with the think tank finding that the situation has led to more than 1.8 million requests for adult social care, up two per cent since 2015/16. However, nearly 13,000 fewer people are receiving support and real-terms local authority spending on social care is £700 million below what it was in 2011.

Presented in Social care 360, the figures showcase how the proportion of over-65s getting long-term social care from their local council has fallen by six per cent, with 22 per cent saying they needed support but did not get it. Additionally, the amount it costs councils to pay for care per week is increasing, with the King’s Fund finding that the average cost per week of residential and nursing care for an older person now standing at £615, a real-terms increase of 6.6 per cent since 2015/16.

Of equal concern, there is an increasing staffing crisis in social care, with eight per cent of jobs vacant at any one time. There are 1.6 million jobs in social care, up by 275,000 since 2009, but 390,000 staff leave their jobs each year.

Simon Bottery, lead author of the report, said: “This report shows that increasing need among working-age adults, an increasing older population and high levels of existing unmet need are combining to put immense pressure on our care and support system, now and for the future. Yet there is little evidence that the government understands or is willing to act on these trends despite the impact on older and disabled people, their families and carers.

“The social care Green Paper, which still has no release date over two years after it was announced, is an opportunity to set out the fundamental reform we desperately need. But while the green paper is delayed, the government must focus on what it can do to support people now. Putting more money into the system in this autumn’s Spending Review would help people to get the help they need while longer-term reform takes effect.”

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “These findings confirm that the current system of adult social care is at breaking point, with people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding. Councils have been doing all they can to protect levels of spending on adult social care but the money is simply not there to keep up with demand, with adult social care facing a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025 just to maintain existing levels of provision.

“This is why it is absolutely vital the government sets out how it plans to tackle this crisis without further delay in the social care green paper and addresses the funding shortfall in the forthcoming Spending Review.”

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