Social care – UK Government assessment
Levels of unmet need for adult social care have increased in recent years, due to rising demand and funding constraints. In response to the pandemic, the UK Government modified the legal obligations in relation to social care provision for both adults and children, which has led to reduced provision. The pandemic has also had a devastating impact on those living in residential care homes. The human rights of disabled people and older people with care needs have been disproportionately affected.
- Before the pandemic, adult social care was already under significant pressure in England, due to rising demand and substantial reductions in government funding – this meant that only those with severe needs received support.
- Requests for adult social care in England increased by 5.7% between 2015-16 and 2019-20, but 18,000 fewer people received support during this time.
- In 2019, Age UK estimated that 1.4 million older people in England were not getting the care they wanted or need
- Real-terms local authority spending on social care in England was approximately £400 million lower in 2019-20 than in 2010-11.
- Despite successive commitments, the UK Government has not yet published promised proposals to overhaul funding of the social care system in England.
- Although the Care Act Easements have not been widely triggered in England, there is evidence that social care provision has been reduced much more widely – this particularly affects disabled adults and older people with care needs.
- During the pandemic it is estimated that the number of people receiving informal care in the UK increased by 4.5 million and many local authorities have seen an increase in unmet need since March 2020.
- Children’s social care was also under pressure prior to the pandemic. The number of referrals made to children’s services per year increased by 10% between 2012/13 and 2018/19.
- Reductions in central government funding to local authorities and an increase in care costs has created a funding gap in children’s services which is estimated to be £3.1 billion by 2024-25.
- Pressure on children’s social care has been compounded by the safeguarding gap created by school closures and concerns have been raised about the impact of the curtailment of child protection safeguards during the pandemic.
- We remain concerned about ‘closed culture’ residential environments. In 2019, BBC Panorama exposed shocking evidence of human rights abuses in a care home for people with a learning disability or autism. This led the Care Quality Commission to commission two separate reviews and to produce new guidance for inspectors on regulating closed cultures.
- The pandemic has had a devastating impact for those living in care homes, with approximately 19,394 care home deaths involving COVID-19 registered in England and Wales between March and June 2020. The COVID-19 mortality rate for care home residents was significantly higher than for non-care residents of the same age, and data indicated a disproportionate number of deaths among ethnic minority people.
- A number of criticisms have been made about the failure to protect people in residential care in England during the pandemic, these include: decisions to discharge hospital patients directly into residential care settings; delays in testing; and blanket restrictions on access to healthcare for care home residents.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on social care.