‘Things have never been so bad’ for England’s social care sector – Adass

“Things have never been so bad” for England’s adult social care sector, a social services director has warned.

A “staggering” number of older and disabled people are not getting the social care and support they need, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass).

This is despite adult social care being “as vital as our Victorian rail network or modern broadband”, Adass president Sarah McClinton said.

The remarks were made at the start of the National Children and Adult Services Conference, which is being co-hosted by Adass, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and the Local Government Association (LGA).

Feet of elderly residents in a care home in the UK
A ‘staggering’ number of older and disabled people are not getting the social care and support they need, the conference will hear (Alamy/PA)

Opening the conference in Manchester, Ms McClinton said: “As professionals, as family members, as a daughter, we all feel more vulnerable and uncertain than we did before even a few weeks ago.

“So we must continue to focus on people.

“It’s the people who need care and support- unpaid carers, our friends, our relatives and people who work in care  – who are most exposed, and winter’s approaching rapidly.

“Be under no illusion – things have never been so bad.”

According to Adass research published over the summer, on average around 600 people joined waiting lists to be assessed for social care and support every day in England between November 2021 and April 2022.

As of April 30, more than half-a-million people were estimated to be waiting for assessments, reviews or care to start.

Separate figures from the workforce body Skills For Care show that, in a year, social care staff vacancies rose by 52% to 165,000 unfilled posts in 2021/22 – the largest annual increase since records began in 2012/13.

Ms McClinton warned delegates that, ahead of winter, the sector has once again “no certainty, no plan and increasingly little time”.

Some £500 million has been promised by the Government to help with hospital discharges over winter, but is yet to be allocated.

Care home staff help elderly people move about the care home, Yorkshire UK
According to Adass, around 600 people on average joined growing waiting lists to be assessed for social care and support every day between November 2021 and April 2022 (Alamy/PA)

“If we added together all of the sticking plasters we’ve seen over the past 10 winters, we could at least have invested in one proper bandage. And we might have started to heal the wound”, she added.

She said directors are working to respond to the “enormous challenge” of implementing social care reforms set to be introduced from October 2023, noting uncertainty over whether they will be delayed.

She added: “There are sound reasons for short delay but if we don’t get to the starting line of resolving who’s paying for care, we’re never going to get to the first hurdle, let alone get over it.”

LGA chairman James Jamieson also addressed delegates, calling for the Government to reassess the current timetable of its reform for the sector, including a six-month deferral in bringing in the £86,000 care cost cap.

He said this would give a chance for councils who are trialling it early to share lessons, adding: “While we agree with the reforms – they are absolutely the right reforms – they do need proper funding”.

The LGA has previously said the funding and capacity that are needed to ensure the reforms are successful are not in place.

Care home staff help elderly people move about the care home, Yorkshire UK
In a year, social care staff vacancies rose by 52% to 165,000 unfilled posts in 2021/22 (Alamy/PA)

He continued: “It’s important we get the reform and the funding for social care right and we’re calling yet again for Government to sit with councils, people with lived experience and our partners, working-age adults, old people, unpaid carers, all, in order to develop a system that works for us all.”

It comes as Sir Andrew Dilnot – architect of the original plans for a care cap –  has said it would be “astonishing” if the Government delayed the measure.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “I think pulling back now would be completely unacceptable.

“To let some of the most needy and vulnerable people in our society down again seems to me would be a terrible, terrible thing to do.

“It will be a breach of the manifesto.”

Delaying it would not make a difference to public finances in the long-term, he added.

The Government said social care will receive £5.4 billion, originally to be paid for by the now-scrapped health and social care levy, with £500 million to support hospital discharges this winter.

It has also launched its Made With Care recruitment campaign for a second year to encourage people to take up roles in the sector.

A spokesman said: “Social care is a top priority and we are committed to bolstering the workforce and protecting people from unpredictable care costs.”