Covid sees end to year-on-year fall in adults receiving long-term care

Numbers supported by English councils rose slightly as did spending, but statisticians say figures were boosted by coronavirus funding

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The year-on-year decline in adults receiving long-term care from councils in England ended during the pandemic, figures revealed today.

Overall, councils recorded 841,245 people as receiving long-term care during 2020-21, up from 838,530 in 2019-20, NHS Digital figures showed.

This number had fallen year-on-year from 890,000 in 2014-15, mainly as a result of a drop in the number of older people receiving care. This year, the number of over-65s supported in long-term care by authorities grew slightly, from 548,450 to 551,550.

However, NHS Digital urged caution in interpreting the figures, included in its annual Adult Social Care Activity and Finance Report. 

Figures boosted by Covid funding

This is because it included people whose care packages were financed by the NHS, with Covid funding, between March and August 2020, to enable hospital discharge or prevent admissions, so long as their care was council-commissioned. As a result, more people may have been included in the figures than otherwise would have been the case.

The statistics also showed a rise in funding on adult social care, from £19.7bn in 2019-20 to £21.2bn in 2020-21, a 8.1% cash increase and a 1.3% rise in real terms.

However, NHS Digital said this reflected the extra money pumped into the sector by the government to support it through Covid, so overall totals were not comparable. This was shown by the fact that income from the NHS rose from £2.8bn to £4bn, and money from specific and special grants increased by £1.5bn from 2019-20 to 2020-21.

More spending on working-age adults  

Despite almost twice as many older people receiving long-term care than working-age adults, expenditure on those aged 18-64 exceeded that on the over-65s for the first time, at £7.9bn, compared with £7.75bn.

The number of requests for support from people, where an outcome was determined during the year, was stable from 2019-20 to 2020-21, at 1.9 million.

Alongside its activity and finance publication, NHS Digital also released the latest results from the Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework.

The figures appeared to show a drop in the effectiveness of action to enable people to regain independence after entering the care system.

The proportion of new clients who received a short-term service, where no further request was made for support, fell from 79.5% to 74.9%, from 2019-20 to 2020-21. And the number of older people who were still at home 91 days after discharge from hospital to reablement services fell from 82% to 79.1%.

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