Story updated 1pm, 7 October 2015
Adults’ services teams are diverting three-quarters of requests for support away from formal social care provision, official figures have revealed.
Most people who approached their council for support did not receive a service, were signposted to other organisations, or received a universal service or only low-level support, such as telecare or equipment, from their council.
That was among the findings of official social services activity statistics for England, released today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
How requests for support were dealt with
Of 1,846,000 requests for support that were acted upon by councils in 2014-15:
- 28% (520,000) resulted in no service being provided.
- 31% (575,000) resulted in a referral to a universal service, such as information and advice, leisure or housing, or the person being signposted to another organisation, such as a charity.
- 16% (304,000) resulted in the provision of a low-level service, where the council provides the person with telecare or equipment but no additional service.
- 12% (218,000) resulted in the provision of a short-term service to maximise independence, such as a reablement programme.
- 4% (75,000) were referred for another type of short-term service.
- 8% (144,000) resulted in the provision of long-term support.
- 1% (10,000) resulted in the provision of end-of-life care.
This means that, in a quarter of cases, people received some kind of formal social care, mostly on a short-term basis. This rises to 41% if low-level support is included.
Impact of reablement
The figures also showed that most people who received a reablement service or another short-term preventative intervention did not go on to receive a social care service subsequently.
Of the 208,000 new clients who received a short-term intervention in 2014-15, 46% went on to receive no further service, 6% a universal service or signposting, 7% low-level support, 5% a further short-term intervention and 22% a long-term service. The remaining 14% were recorded as not completing their short-term intervention but it was not clear what further service they received, if any.
The figures reflect the policy imperative, enshrined in the Care Act 2014, of preventing people from needing ongoing services and supporting them to remain independent and outside the social care system.
On this point, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Ray James said: “There has been a long term trend to deliver information and advice and to enable people to access mainstream universal services and have choice and control and make decisions that are personal to them.”
“These figures suggest that this trend continues, and given the scale of sustained budget reductions it is inevitable that fewer people will receive long term support.”
Unmet need or good signposting
However, they will prompt a debate about whether they show how well councils are doing at achieving this aim or how much they are rationing services and leaving need unmet.
The annual activity statistics had been used to track the reduction in the numbers of people receiving support from councils over the past few years, under the impact of cuts. Last year’s data showed that there had been a reduction from 1,782,000 to 1,273,000 in the number of people receiving support from councils from 2008-9 to 2013-14.
This year’s statistics showed that 890,000 people received a long-term service during 2014-15. But this is not a like-with-like comparison with the 1,273,000 who received services in 2013-14, as this encompasses other service users.
This is because the way in which the statistics are collected changed for 2014-15, an issue that was criticised by social care commentator and Centre for Welfare Reform director Simon Duffy on Twitter:
What a surprise! 5 years of deep cuts to social care & Government changes data collection system to hide the facts.
— Simon J Duffy (@simonjduffy) October 6, 2015
However, in its report, the HSCIC said that the new approach, which followed a review of social care data and extensive consultation, will “provide a much richer picture of short term preventative services, including reablement” than the previous approach.
Autism caseloads disclosed
The HSCIC figures also, for the first time, disclosed the number of adults with autism receiving ongoing social care support from their councils. Overall, as of 31 March, 2015, there were 5,000 adults with Asperger’s syndrome and 12,000 with other types of autism receiving long-term support.
The National Autistic Society welcomed the publication of the figures but said they were likely to be an underestimate.
“We’ve been calling for this for a long time and hope it will give local authorities a much clearer picture of local need so they can design services in their area more effectively, said the charity’s head of policy, Sarah Lambet.
“However, we do not believe that these figures yet reflect the full number of people on the autism spectrum who receive support from their local authority. There are around 460,000 autistic adults in England and while a large proportion will not be eligible for support from social care services, we would estimate the actual figure must be higher than 17,000.
“It is vital that local authorities make sure that they are accurately recording all the autistic adults they support as this will help them plan and improve services.”