‘Things have never been so bad’ for people needing care, carers and staff, warns ADASS president

Scale of unmet need staggering, carers at breaking point and sector left unprepared for the coming winter, Sarah McClinton tells fellow sector leaders

Falling Red Arrow Chart on Black Background 3D Illustration
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“Things have never been so bad,” for people needing care, carers and staff, the president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has warned.

In a speech to the National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) Conference yesterday, Sarah McClinton said the sector had been left with “no certainty, no plan and increasingly little time”, as it entered a challenging winter.

This was in the context of councils running waiting lists of 542,000 for assessments, personal budgets or reviews, as of April this year, according to ADASS figures, and the wider sector having lost 50,000 care staff during 2021-22.

‘Staggering’ level of unmet need

“The scale of how many people are either not getting the care and support they need, or are getting the wrong kind of help, at the wrong time and in the wrong place is staggering,” McClinton told fellow sector leaders.

“It is also adding to the endless pressures we see with ambulances and hospitals, and adding to the pressures we see in our communities, [including] more people requesting help with mental health and domestic abuse, [and] 2.2 million hours of home care [that] couldn’t be delivered in the first quarter of this year. We see unpaid carers at breaking point and people unable to afford the support they need.”

In September, the government announced £500m for adult social care to help speed up hospital discharges – to relieve NHS pressures – and bolster the care workforce.

However, it is yet to decide how the funding will be distributed – including how far it will be allocated through councils or NHS integrated care boards – let alone provide it to local leaders.

£500m the latest ‘sticking plaster’

McClinton said the money needed to be provided urgently.

However, echoing the language of other sector leaders, she said it was latest of a number of “sticking plasters” that the sector had received over many years, leaving fundamental problems unaddressed.

“If we added together all the sticking plasters, we have 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.

As the government considers delaying its proposed reforms to the adult social care charging system – including the cap on care costs and a more generous means-test – McClinton said there were “sound reasons” for this.

However, while the government sees the measure as saving money, with the reforms costing £771m in 2023-24, ADASS, like the Local Government Association and the County Councils Network, have said the money should be retained to invest in the sector.

Reform funding ‘should be retained and increased’ 

In a recent statement, ADASS chief executive Cathie Williams said: “By guaranteeing funding already allocated for reforms next year, and indeed increasing it significantly, the government could facilitate further investment in care workers’ pay and conditions, enable more people to receive care at home, improve support for unpaid carers and initiate more intermediate care schemes to avoid people going into hospital or staying there longer than necessary.

“These are the priorities if we are to avoid a spiralling rise this winter in the numbers of people going without the care and support that they need or having too little of it.”

McClinton also highlighted the risks in delaying the reforms, suggesting it would leave the question of the balance of responsibility for paying for care between the state and the individual unresolved.

“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,” she added. “As I said earlier, it’s all about the long term, and the scale of the challenge needs long term plans with long term investment.”

Social care ‘a top priority’

In response to McClinton’s speech, a DHSC spokesperson said: “Social care is a top priority and we are committed to bolstering the workforce and protecting people from unpredictable care costs.”

The latter is a reference to the objective of the cap on care costs – which will limit people’s liability for personal care costs deemed eligible by their local authority to £86,000 over their lifetime.

To implement the reforms, a related measure to ensure councils pay providers a fair cost of care and wider improvements to the sector, the government has allocated £5.4bn from 2022-25.

The spokesperson said this funding would be retained, alongside the £500m for the winter for hospital discharges, which local health and social care leaders would be able to use flexibly.

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3 Responses to ‘Things have never been so bad’ for people needing care, carers and staff, warns ADASS president

  1. Julie Lineham November 4, 2022 at 8:32 am #

    Unless something is done to pay and conditions of people who work in social care, the problem will never go away. What would you rather do, work for £10.21 per hour in social care or work in Lidls for £13 per hour plus money off your food bill. Front line social care staff support our most vulnerable people, and this should be recognised. You can through the 500 million for winter pressures at us but unless we can recruit, we will never see improvements in social care.

  2. Tom November 5, 2022 at 9:52 am #

    Perhaps Lidl should be contracted to run social care services then. It’s not as if there is a magical trapeze in Lidl that bounces it towards better pay and conditions for its workers. What corporations, companies and private owners pay their workers is a choice. Somehow providers think so highly of their workers by constantly reminding us of how important they are but this always falls short at the point of paying them better. Pay versus profit versus dividends is a choice.

  3. Whocares November 6, 2022 at 4:28 pm #

    It’s always the same old story. Why do I get the feeling that nothing will change in the social care sector? Not that it has been that good anyway, for the last twenty years.