Social care – UK Government assessment
Amid rising demand and funding constraints, more people were being declined care in the years prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and social care provision has reduced further during the pandemic. In response to the pandemic, the UK Government modified the legal obligations in relation to social care provision for both adults and children. The pandemic has had a severe and disproportionate impact on the human rights of disabled people and older people, particularly those living in residential care homes. The UK Government has introduced proposals to overhaul the funding of adult social care and announced £5.4 billion in additional funding over the next three years.
- Before the pandemic, adult social care was already under significant pressure in England, due to rising demand and substantial reductions in government funding since 2010–11. Requests for adult social care in England increased by 6.6% between 2015–16 and 2019–20, but the total number of people receiving support decreased by 1.2% during this time.
- The average annual social care expenditure per person has increased from £506 in 2015–16 to £529 in 2019–20, though this remains below the 2010–11 levels of £560 per person.
- The UK Government announced new funding arrangements for adult social care in September 2021. However, it is too early to assess the implications of these reforms on the long-term funding of social care. The UK Government has committed to bringing forward further proposals to transform adult social care by the end of 2021.
- Children’s social care was also under pressure prior to the pandemic. Reductions in central government funding to local authorities and an increase in both care costs and demand has created a funding gap estimated to reach £3.1 billion by 2024–25.
- Although the Care Act easements under the Coronavirus Act 2020 were not widely used in England, there is evidence that homecare provision was reduced more widely during the initial stages of the pandemic, particularly affecting disabled adults and older people with care needs.
- In spring 2021, almost 55,000 people were waiting for a care needs assessment; almost 7,000 of them had waited for over six months.
- Evidence from freedom of information requests to 83 local authorities in England showed that social care recipients were being charged on average 13% more in care costs in 2020–21 compared with 2018–19.
- In the early stages of the pandemic, it was estimated that the number of people providing informal, unpaid care in the UK increased by 4.5 million. Unpaid care is disproportionately provided by women, and research indicates that providing more than 10 care hours per week can have significant implications for employment and wellbeing.
- Between the week ending 20 March 2020 and the week ending 11 September 2020, the total number of care home resident deaths was 27,079 above the five-year average in England and Wales. Analysis by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) also indicated a disproportionate number of deaths from COVID-19 among Black and Asian care home residents in England between April and May 2020.
- There has been criticism of the failure to protect people in residential care in England during the pandemic, including blanket restrictions on access to visits and healthcare, and reports that hospital patients were discharged directly into residential care settings without adequate testing in the early stages of the pandemic. An interim report by the CQC found evidence of inappropriate use of ‘do not resuscitate’ orders at the start of the pandemic.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on social care.