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Care system risks catastrophic failure

The failure of the Rishi Sunak Chancellor of the Exchequer to even mention financial support for social care services in the budget is likely to deepen the crises faced by the industry.

Prior to the budget, James Bullion, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), warned the care system risked “catastrophic failure in some areas” without urgent changes to the way vulnerable people, including younger disabled people, are looked after.

Providers could go out of business

Mr Bullion said “We’ve got social care providers who are very much more fragile and at risk than they were a year ago. We were able to pay premiums to providers to keep going, but we've now reached the point where the revenue consequences of the last year will come home to roost. And we're very worried about the impact on the social care market and whether it will still be there for us in a way that it’s been in the past year if we take that support away.”

He said in some areas this could lead to the “catastrophic failure” of providers who could go out of business while others refuse to take more residents.

He warned: “If somebody wants to be supported at home, but we can’t find home-care providers, then we have to start looking at alternatives to make sure their needs are met. You can get situations where, because you can’t be supported at home, you end up being supported in an institutional setting like a care home.

James Bullion warns that the number of people needing care has doubled in some parts of the country.

Unmet need

Age UK has estimated there could be at least 1.4 million people with unmet care needs, but Mr Bullion said he believed that had probably increased by at least half a million now.

“If you take March 2020 as a baseline, many people’s health has been made worse as a result of Covid. In some cases, during the peaks, we’ve seen a doubling of the numbers of people we're dealing with.

“In Norfolk, we normally see 700 people come through our doors in a month, but that’s up to an average of 1,200 now.”

He added: “We need respite from the current situation to stabilise it, we need a recovery model that gets social care on a par with the NHS and gets it functioning properly, and then we need reform.

Inadequacy of funding

Councils have been given £1bn extra for social care from April along with the option to add a 3 per cent council tax levy. Mr Bullion said this was inadequate to meet the rising costs and not all councils had opted to increase their share of council tax.

“The reality is the settlement left us very short,” he said.

Mr Bullion warned: “The social care workforce needs parity of value with the NHS and that means raising the wages of that workforce. Around 15 to 20 per cent of all care services have got a quality problem. If we want to solve that problem, we’ve got to invest in training and in the workforce. We need half a million new people working in social care over the next 10 years and we won’t get them by keeping wages low.”

MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee have said social care needs at least an annual funding boost of £7bn to begin the process of reform.

Summary

Following the disappointment of a no action budget for social care. One begins to wonder when the strategy of this government will ever change. They seem oblivious to the concerns of leaders of social care providers, voluntary organisations, Directors of Adult Social Care Services and Parliamentary Committees. Even the burden placed on the sector by the pandemic has failed to bring about a recognition of realistic funding and reform.

According to Mr Bullion the lack of funding could lead to the “catastrophic failure” of providers who could go out of business while others refuse to take more residents.

The answer of the Government is to pass the buck to local authorities. Councils have been given £1bn extra for social care and allowed to increase council tax levy by 3 per cent. This level of funding for providers will not solve the problem and do little to address unmet need.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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