75,000 disabled and older people in England waiting for help with care and support

Directors of adult social services report “unprecedented” numbers of people waiting for an assessment of their needs, or for agreed care and support arrangements to be put in place. Almost 7,000 people have been waiting more than six months for an assessment.

15/07/21

75,000 disabled and older people in England waiting for help with care and support

Leaders of adult social care say too many people are waiting too long for help with their care and support as services struggle to cope with an “avalanche” of needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The figures were revealed in an annual survey of local council social services in England by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS). Despite the worsening delays in meeting people’s needs, councils are being forced to cut £600m from their social services spending this year.

The survey has also found that directors are concerned – at least equally, or more – about being able to help people of working age who have disabilities or other needs as they are about being able to support older people. Just 3% of directors say they are worried most about older people.

Stephen Chandler, ADASS president, said the figures arising from the survey were unprecedented.

“Many directors are saying they have never seen such an avalanche of need. Tens of thousands of people have lost their independence during the pandemic, suffered fresh distress, or seen existing care and support arrangements break down. Many have delayed coming forward until now.

Chandler, who is also Corporate Director of Adult Services at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Behind every one of the 75,000 cases of people waiting for an assessment or for care and support is a human story of someone unable to lead the life they want to lead and enjoy the minimum that any of us would want to guarantee for our fellow citizens.”

The ADASS survey, which was completed by directors of almost all (97%) English councils responsible for adult social services, also paints a picture of the adequacy of state funding of social care to meet people’s needs.

Councils were found to be making £601m savings in services in 2021-22, representing an average 3.7% of budgets. ADASS says the savings will mostly be through greater efficiency, or doing more for less, and developing so-called ‘asset-based’ support whereby people receive help from within their local community rather than from formal services. Since 2010, councils have made a cumulative total of more than £8bn savings.

However, only one in five directors say they are fully confident of making planned savings this year or of meeting all their statutory duties. Specifically, fewer than one in four directors is confident of meeting their duties to provide information and advice, safeguard all people considered at risk, or carry out assessments of all people seeking care and support.

The survey suggests that almost 55,000 disabled or older people, or carers, are waiting for an assessment of their needs, while more than 19,000 who have been assessed and deemed eligible are waiting for a service or direct payment to arrange their own care and support. Of those awaiting assessment, almost 7,000 have been waiting more than six months.

Asked for their biggest concern, only 3% of directors said it was being able to meet the needs of older people whereas 40% said it was being able to do so for people of working age – 54% said they were equally concerned about both. Despite this, the Government’s manifesto commitment to reform social care focuses on older people.

Boris Johnson initially made the pledge to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all” in his first speech as Prime Minister giving hope to leaders in the sector, however plans have repeatedly failed to materialise.

“Our survey shows starkly why the Government must now, without any further delay, produce its plans to reform social care,” Chandler said. “We have called for the outline of the plans to be tabled before parliament starts its six-week summer recess next week. Those plans must address the needs of people of working age as well as older people.”

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