Anna’s Blog – Social Care Crisis
As social care leaders warn of a breakdown in services across the country, our CEO looks again at the ongoing funding crisis.
The crisis in social care funding is a subject I’ve returned to several times in this blog. Last month leaders in the care sector warned that the escalating financial crisis has put thousands of older and disabled people at risk of being denied basic support like help with washing and dressing.
The provision of care in this country is in crisis. Anyone who works in the sector or who cares for a relative or friend is all too aware of that.
The picture painted by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) is a bleak one of social care in England adrift in a ‘sea of inertia’ caused by budget cuts and Brexit related policy paralysis.
They say without urgent guarantees over funding levels there is a serious risk that local authorities will be forced to start decommissioning care services in the autumn.
There are already signs that some fragile local care markets are imploding under the strain – almost half of councils have witnessed the closure of domestic home care providers in their area in the past year, and a third have seen residential care homes shut down, collectively affecting more than 8,000 clients and residents.
At the end of last year the UK Home Care Association published a report highlighting the gap between the average prices paid by local authorities and the actual cost of providing that care.
The UKHCA says that the average amount paid to care providers is just £16.12 per hour whilst the cost of providing that care is in excess of £18 per hour. In our experience, at Creative Support, the amount local authorities are prepared to pay is much lower than that.
When you consider paying a proper rate for travel and giving staff a salary commensurate with their skills and experience – the gap becomes even greater. The report concluded that the homecare sector needs at least £402million to fund the statutory minimum wage for care workers. That’s around twice the amount promised by the government in a one-off funding package to ease pressure on the NHS.
During his campaigning for Prime Minister, Jeremy Hunt admitted the cuts have gone too far. Still, though, there has been no ‘grown-up’ cross party debate on how to pay for increasing adult social care costs. A funding green paper, promised more than 18 months ago, has been postponed six times.
At a local level there are real concerns that the strains on social care budgets will lead to more unpopular rationing of state-funded care services, as shown on a recent BBC documentary capturing the traumatic impact of county council cuts on families in Somerset.
Earlier this year Age UK said tightening eligibility for council-funded social care meant 627,000 people – nearly 900 a day – had been refused social care since March 2017. More than 1.4 million older people aged 65 and over had unmet care needs, it estimated.
As President of ADASS, Julie Ogley, said, “Too many older and disabled people and their families still struggle without getting the help they need. Social workers, managers and councillors are having to make incredibly difficult decisions based on dwindling resources, which should not be allowed to happen in a modern, compassionate society.”