Eight in ten (82%) social care providers are in deficit or facing a decrease in their surplus, the latest Sector Pulse Check report has found.
The squeeze has been caused by rising cost pressures – with some providers reporting a 500% increase in the cost of utility bills – and unfunded workforce pay increases driven by a rise in the National Living Wage.
In total, 92% of providers said workforce pay was a key pressure on their organisation. And yet even with this increase, the social care sector offers relatively low wages to other sectors, with 95% of respondents saying that increasing pay would have the most impact on boosting staff numbers.
These pressures have seen two in five (42%) providers forced to close parts of their organisation or hand back care contracts to Local Authorities.
Most vulnerable in society could be unable to access social care
Now, one third of adult social care providers, including half of smaller organisations, are considered exiting the market.
This would leave some of the most vulnerable in society at risk of not being able to access the support they need, say Hft and Care England, who commissioned the report.
This could be particularly damaging for NHS patients at a time when one in six patients – over 13,000 people – are in hospital due to delayed discharge.
Kirsty Matthews, Chief Executive of Hft, says: “As a provider, I empathise with my peers across the sector having to close services and turn away referrals because of financial constraints and staff shortages. This is made more critical at a time when we need to further support our partners in the NHS by preventing admissions to hospital or enabling the discharge of people to social care.
“We can no longer afford to ignore the fact that our sector is being driven out of the market without acknowledging the devastating impact this is having on the lives of the people who draw on our support, the National Health Service and the wider economy.”
Government must respond if sector is to continue to provide quality care and support
Hft and Care England have highlighted the key issues the government must address – both in the short-term and the long-term – to ensure the social care sector is able to cope with increasing demand as people live for longer. This includes:
Developing a pay framework to establish a minimum care wage, above the level of the NLW and tied to NHS band three
Aligning benefits, terms and conditions for care staff with those in the NHS, including on pensions, statutory sick pay, holiday entitlements and access to training courses
Establishing formal accountability for workforce pay with the Local Authority/Integrated Care System
Providing continued financial support for energy costs for care providers
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, is urging the government to urgently act on these suggestions, and says “now is the time to shift the needle”.
“This needle needs to point to a new future, one which sees social care as part of the solution in terms of how we look after our nation. We require a new vision where success is measured in outcomes, and in terms of the benefit delivered to people and communities more widely. The whole system needs to work together with a shared vision and purpose to ensure this becomes a reality for all.
“Organisations, staff and the people we support are all suffering as a result of the current roadmap. This landmark report must be the last which reaffirms the current reality and it is incumbent upon Government to respond if the sector is to continue to provide quality care and support. There is an opportunity to lay the foundation for meaningful reform, within the current funding envelope, and it is one that should be grasped with both hands,” he said.