Social care funding gap of £4.4bn pending

New analysis from the Health Foundation has found that there will be a social care funding gap of £4.4 billion in England in 2023/24 to meet rising demand and address critical staffing shortages in the sector.

The charity says that the money available for adult social care will rise at an annual average rate of 1.4 per cent a year, which is much lower than the 3.4 per cent a year the government has committed to the NHS and crucially, far below rising demand of 3.6 per cent a year.

The Health Foundation also points to poor pay and conditions in social care as a major threat to the quality of care and future sustainability of the sector, with 110,000 current vacancies in adult social care. Over 40,000 nurses work in adult social care but almost a third are estimated to have left their role within the past 12 months, with adult social care wages deemed a large factor in that exodus.

In fact, more than 90 per cent of care workers, including those from the EU, earn below the proposed £30,000 salary threshold that could be required to obtain a visa after Brexit.

The analysis also shows that England spends considerably less on publicly funded adult social care per person than Scotland and Wales, and that the gap has widened since 2010/11. In that year, England spent an average of £345 per person compared to £457 in Scotland (32 per cent more) and £445 Wales (29 per cent more). But while adult social care budgets in all three countries have since fallen in real terms, Scotland and Wales have provided more protection for funding. Today, England spends £310 per person compared to £445 in Scotland (43 per cent more) and £414 in Wales (33 per cent more).

Anita Charlesworth, director of Economics and Research at the Health Foundation, said: “Adult social care is one of the victims of the current political impasse but is in urgent need of funding and reform. Pressures on the service continue to grow at a much faster rate than funding. More people need care but we also need to ensure that care is high quality. Staffing is a key determinant of both quality and cost. With around two-thirds of staff at the minimum wage and a quarter on zero hours contracts, it is perhaps unsurprising that adult social care providers are struggling to attract and retain workers.
“Planned changes to make international recruitment more difficult also present a major challenge to a sector that is highly reliant on staff recruited from overseas. Rising demand and competition for the same pool of workers from other sectors, including the NHS, will compound these problems.
“Tackling the challenge of social care reform will require decisive political action and an appropriate funding settlement. Successive governments have ducked the challenge and the tragedy is that vulnerable people and their families are suffering as a result. If reform remains unaddressed, social care’s inadequacies will continue to undermine the NHS and people in need of care will continue to fall through the cracks.”