The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) is warning that care waiting lists remain “far too high” and could rise again this winter if the staffing crisis in social care is not resolved.
ADASS’ Spring Survey paints a bleak picture in social care, with providers facing significant financial pressures despite the short-term funding boosts provided by the government.
Indeed, the survey found that more councils overspent on their adult social care budget last year and an increasing number relied on reserves to fund these pressures.
The overspend is partly driven by an increasing demand for services, with 81% of directors reporting an increase in the number of people needing or being referred to adult social care service with needs associated with mental ill health, 64% in domestic abuse of people with care and support needs and 51% in rough sleeping. There are also additional needs from people in prisons.
This rise in demand means that most local authorities are not confident they can offer the minimum social care support in their communities required by law.
Added pressure on unpaid carers
A lack of staff and funding constraints has meant that in the past two months, two thirds (66%) of directors said providers in their area had closed, ceased trading or handed back contracts, with more than 8,000 people affected in these areas.
This has meant unpaid carers are taking on more and more responsibility, and 91% of directors said burnout was the number one reason for carer breakdown over the past year.
Pressure on the NHS has caused further strain on the social care sector, with a national focus on hospital discharge piling on the pressure in social care.
Indeed, eight in 10 (81%) directors said that increased NHS pressures have led to adult social care taking responsibility for services which previously the NHS would have arranged or delivered.
Homecare is also lacking, with more than half a million hours of homecare (equivalent to around £14.7 million worth of care) unable to be delivered due to a lack of social care staff. ADASS says this is also partly caused by NHS pressures, as if resources are focused on discharge, then there is less to support people’s wellbeing at home.
Social care leaders urging government to act
In response to the survey, Peter Snelling, Chief Care and Support Officer at the learning disability charity Hft, said: “These concerning figures demonstrate just how unstable the adult social care market is, and we cannot under-estimate the broader impact of this, from unmet need among adults with a learning disability to increased pressure on our NHS as a consequence of people who don’t have the right support ending up in crisis.”
“Our sector is reaching the end of the road yet, without an urgent plan for recovery, it is imperative that the lacklustre attitude, which has characterised the Government’s approach to social care over the past 13 years, changes immediately,” he added.
Social care leaders are now calling on the government to put measures in place to ease pressure on the sector. This includes:
Investing in support that helps people avoid the need to go to hospital or a care home, and support for people to recover, get back on their feet and back home after hospital.
Increasing support to carers and improve workforce pay (they note that international recruitment is not a long-term fix).
Creating a fully funded, long-term plan to transform social care to ensure everyone in England can get the care and support they need when they need it.
Beverley Tarka, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said: “We are urging the Government to unlock the £600m social care reform funding they have held back so we can improve both staffing and support carers to help keep people in their homes. But to make real progress, we need a long-term plan for investment like the one in the roadmap we published in April, and the political will to make social care a priority over the next ten years so everyone can get the care they need, when they need it in the future.”