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Spending on social care is less than in 2010

coins in pound sign

Annual adult social care spending in England is still £600m lower than in 2010, according to new analysis published by the TUC. 

The analysis finds that in 112 of the 150 responsible local authorities, social care spending per head of the population is still below 2010. Spending per head is 8% below the level in 2010 for England overall. And regional reductions range from 18% in London, to 5% in the South East, East Midlands and East of England. 

Fixing social care for better services and a stronger recovery 

Most of us will recall that in his first speech as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson promised to ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all’. But he’s still not set out any plans. 

Today’s TUC report, fixing social care: better quality services and jobs, sets out why the UK does not have a high-quality social care system, and how to improve it for those who use it, and those who work in it. 

Insufficient funding 

Social care in England has insufficient funding to meet demand, forcing councils to tighten eligibility and people to rely on informal care from family and friends. And it will be unable to meet future demand from a 49% increase in those aged 65+ by 2040.  

Most care homes with CQC registration are run privately for profit. This directs public funds away from service users and squeezes pay and conditions for staff. Almost a quarter of social care staff have a zero-hours contract and 7 in 10 are paid less than £10 per hour. The sector has around 120,000 unfilled vacancies and an annual staff turnover rate of 31%.

TUC plan

The report calls for: 

  1. A new funding settlement: This year’s spending review should fully offset the cuts of the previous decade and establish future rises at a level that will allow local authorities to meet rising demand and improve pay and conditions for staff. 

  2. Immediate funding to fill all social care vacancies: In a time of rising unemployment, social care could provide a steady source of new decent jobs. The government could act now to unlock 120,000 existing vacancies, to help those losing their jobs.  

  3. Fair pay and conditions for care workers: To provide sustainable livelihoods and an attractive career, all social care workers must get a sector minimum wage of at least £10 per hour. There must be an end to the zero-hours contracts, and poor or non-existent sick pay that put social care workers at risk during the pandemic. And all social care workers must have guaranteed opportunities for training and progression. 

  4. A national Social Care Forum:A new body is needed to bring together government, unions, employers, commissioners and providers to coordinate the delivery and development of services, including the negotiation of a workforce strategy. 

  5. A reduced private sector role: The government should strengthen rules to prevent financial extraction in the care sector and should phase out the for-profit model of delivery, so that all public funding is used to deliver high-quality services with fair pay and conditions for staff. 

  6. A universal service free at the point of use: The changes above can be made quickly. Longer-term, the government should make social care a universal service, paid for through general taxation to ensure high-quality social care can be quickly accessed by everyone who needs it, in every part of England, without any variation in cost and qualifying rules.

What TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  

  1. “When the country needed them, social care workers stepped up. Care workers looked after older and disabled people in the midst of a pandemic, often without the right PPE, and often for low wages and no sick pay.   

  2. “Now it’s time to fix the broken system. Social care is badly underfunded. Pay and conditions for care workers are dreadful. And families can’t be sure of high-quality, affordable care when a family member needs it. 

  3. “As we face mass unemployment, ministers should act to unlock the 120,000 existing social care vacancies right now. And they should put investment in social care at the heart of our national recovery plan. 

  4. “Social care jobs should be decent jobs on fair pay, at the heart of every community. The TUC’s plan sets out how a full funding settlement for social care would work. Ministers can’t spend another decade hiding from the social care crisis.”  


The TUC report confirms the underfunding of social care. Whilst the proposed strategy to fix the problem may be seen by some as having the connotations of a wish list. Few would argue that there has never been a better time to recruit new people to social care.  The success of any new recruitment drive however will largely depend on the payment of a fair wage and recognition of the contribution made by social care staff. The fact that so many carers have zero-hours contracts and 7 in 10 are paid less than £10 per hour is a disgrace. The industry needs to recognise the valuable work carried out by carers who must be paid accordingly.

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

September 14th 2020

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