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'Care is being rationed' - disability groups raise concern over social care crisis

Millions going with needs unmet say campaigners

Published by Professional Social Work magazine, 9 February 2022

The social care crisis is resulting in people with unmet care needs being hospitalised and disability campaigners warning that deaths from neglect are “only a matter of time”.

Legal charity Access Social Care (ASC) has seen a threefold increase in care package assessment enquiries and a two third increase in care plan calls to national helplines.

Kari Gerstheimer, founder and chief executive of ASC, said: “Across the country there are millions of older and disabled people with unmet social care needs. Family carers are being asked to deliver an unsustainable and unsafe level of care, and for those who don’t have family to help them, the risk can be even greater.

“Every day we see people who have been denied the social care they need being hospitalised at a significantly greater cost to the state.”

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) warned: ”It is only a matter of time until disabled and older people die.”

Mike Padgham, chair of Independent Care Group chair, added: “If we could as a sector we would declare a state of emergency in social care.

“We have been warning for months that the staffing situation was becoming critical, but have yet to receive any proper support.

“Now we see evidence that care is being rationed. Providers are having to limit what they offer and vulnerable people are suffering.”

More than one in two directors of social services recently told an ADASS survey they have had to limit care packages or ask families to step in to help. Half of councils surveyed were taking at least one exceptional measure to prioritise care and assess risk. One in three confirmed they were having to ration care.

ADASS is calling for an extra £7 billion a year, a social care minimum wage equal to what the NHS pays for similar work, and for social care to receive a larger share from the new Health and Social Care Levy.

Stephen Chandler, president of ADASS, said: “The roots of this lie in the failure to fund adult social care sustainably over the past decade and to recognise and reward properly the committed, courageous and compassionate people who work in it.”

The government says more than £2.9 billion has gone into adult social care during the pandemic, and the Health and Care Visa scheme has been expanded to include care workers, whose role is now on the Shortage Occupation List, keeping the minimum salary threshold at £20,480.

In addition, the government points to a forthcoming rise in the National Living Wage which will see many low-paid workers receive a 6.6 per cent pay rise from April.

A government spokesperson said: “We want to see employers make long term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad. Our Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work.

“We are doing everything we can to support the incredibly hardworking care staff by including investing £462.5 million in workforce recruitment and retention funds, expanding the Health and Care Visa scheme and promoting our ‘Made with Care’ recruitment campaign.”

Round up across UK

Gwent

Recipients of care packages were warned of ‘changes’ to care in Gwent, which was “under massive pressure” in January and into February.

Staff absences and recruitment issues strained current services, with people being told that changes to their arrangements were “highly likely”.

Residents who receive care were asked to expect care staff turning up at different times due to the pressures.

Norfolk

After declaring a county-wide critical incident, patients were sent to a hotel to free up hospital space.

Services faced a "huge challenge" of increased demand and reduced staffing, and the use of "care hotels" although costly has been seen elsewhere in the country.

Cornwall

The largest care home provider in the county closed three homes, merging services and consulting with families. Council leaders in Cornwall declared a joint critical incident with the NHS in the county as providers struggle to meet demand. Covid-19-related staff absences intensified workforce challenges, with a backlog of hospital discharges and 500 people waiting for social care at home.

Surrey

Closures of care home beds led to a critical incident being declared at a Surrey hospital.

The closure of beds led to the trust having to open more "escalation areas" because people who couldn't be discharged despite being well enough were still in hospital beds.