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Local authorities grapple with rising demand and costs of care

There are more requests for publicly-funded social care in England than ever before, yet the number of people receiving it continues to fall, finds a new report from The King’s Fund.

The latest figures show that requests for support from both older people, and particularly working age adults, have increased significantly to around 1.98 million.  Yet the number of people receiving long-term care has fallen to 818,000 in 2021/22, a 55,000 drop from 2015/16. Older people have been worst affected, with numbers receiving long-term care down to 529,000 in 2021/22– a fall of 23,000 in just one year.

The authors of Social Care 360 say the most likely reason for this long-term trend of falling receipt of care, despite increasing demand, is the financial challenges facing local authorities, who pay for publicly-funded social care. The cost of commissioning care is also rising.

The report identifies that local authorities are paying more for care home places and home care.

In real terms, the average weekly fee paid by local authorities in England for care homes places for working-age adults rose by 2.5 per cent, to £1,428 in 2021/22. The average weekly fee for older people’s care home places increased 2.6 per cent to £767.

Post Covid-19 pandemic, requests for care are now at an all-time high: at 1.98 million in 2021/22, of which people aged 65 and over accounted for around 70 per cent (1.37 million). Among older people, prevalence of disability has, if anything, fallen but balancing this has been an increasing number of older people in the population.

Commenting on the picture of demand, Simon Bottery, senior fellow at The King’s Fund and lead author of the report, said: “More people will have to pay themselves, rely on family and friends – or go without care entirely.”

The report also shows that staff vacancies in the social care sector are now the highest since records began.  Bottery explained: “Vacancy rates in adult social care are higher than in the NHS and much  higher than in other areas of the economy such as retail, education, and manufacturing. A critical factor in recruitment is pay: around half of all care workers would be better off in entry level roles in England’s supermarkets.’

Bottery comments: “The report shows that many of the critical indicators for adult social care are going in the wrong direction yet the government’s main reforms, such as the introduction of a cap on lifetime care costs, have now been postponed until 2025 and there is little action so far on critical issues such as workforce and carers.

“The government has an opportunity to move from words to action in its reform plan, promised for the Spring. There is an urgent need for more funding and fundamental reform of a publicly-funded social care system from which so many people are shut out.”


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