Next PM ‘must be more intelligent about social care after years of neglect’

·4-min read
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss during a hustings event at Wembley Arena, London, as part of their campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss during a hustings event at Wembley Arena, London, as part of their campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

The new prime minister must “turn the page and take a more intelligent approach to social care” amid an “astonishing” level of need which is not being met, groups have warned.

The Care and Support Alliance (CSA) is calling for the incoming Conservative Party leader to “act fast”, with research suggesting one in eight older people are going without the social care they need.

Analysis by Age UK for the CSA found around 12% of people over 50 in England are not getting the help they need with activities such as washing, dressing, eating and getting in or out of bed.

This is based on analysis of data from the latest wave of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing survey, carried out over 2018-19.

There’s no doubt that the long-term neglect of social care services by central government is having very real consequences

Caroline Abrahams, CSA co-chairwoman

Extrapolating this to England’s population using 2021 Census data, it suggests around 2.6 million older adults have some unmet need for social care.

Of these, 70% have trouble getting dressed, 47% have difficulty washing, and 36% struggle to get in and out of bed.

A fifth of those with a care need that is not being met are lonely.

The CSA, which is made up of more than 60 charities, is calling for urgent Government cash to address pressures on the care system.

It says leaders have neglected the sector through years of underfunding, and reforms “will not and cannot” fulfil the promise Boris Johnson made on the steps of Downing Street to “fix” social care.

This is because they will not improve the quality or availability of care, and instead are focused on subsidising the amount people pay, it said.

The latest calls follow figures from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, showing around 600 people every day are joining growing waiting lists to be assessed for social care and support in England.

The millions of older and disabled people putting up with inadequate services, if they get any service at all, need the incoming PM to get a grip of the problem and aim for transformation through proper reform

Jackie O’Sullivan, Mencap and CSA

And in August MPs called for a cash injection and said a long-term plan is needed to help the sector meet immediate cost pressures and become sustainable over the coming years.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK and CSA co-chairwoman, called the level of unmet need “truly astonishing”.

She said: “There’s no doubt that the long-term neglect of social care services by central government is having very real consequences, not only for the individuals whose lives are at best diminished, and their families who often have to pick up the pieces, but for other public services too, especially the NHS.

“What folly it has been for our politicians to be so careless about such a crucial public service – it’s high time that changed and I hope our new prime minister will turn the page and take a more intelligent approach to social care.”

She added staff need to be “properly recompensed”, with increasing numbers of vacancies due to uncompetitive wages and conditions.

Jackie O’Sullivan, communication director of Mencap and CSA co-chairwoman, said many younger disabled adults “are being condemned to living lives where just getting out of the house is a constant struggle”.

She added: “The millions of older and disabled people putting up with inadequate services, if they get any service at all, need the incoming PM to get a grip of the problem and aim for transformation through proper reform, but as it stands it is never going to be possible with the meagre funding allocated by the Government up to now.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Reforming adult social care is a key priority, which is why we’re providing £5.4 billion over the next three years to end spiralling care costs, support the workforce and improve the care people and their families receive.

“Local authorities are responsible for assessing a person’s eligibility for care and financial support, and meeting those needs. Where people are not eligible for financial support, local authorities can support them to make their own care arrangements if needed.”