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Social care system in sustained crisis despite funding, report finds

Charity Hft says despite ‘record Government investment’, unsustainable financial and workforce pressures are forcing adult social care providers to turn down new admissions and close services, as government grants are not reaching the people who need them most.

18/01/24

Social care system in sustained crisis despite funding, report finds

The social care system is in ‘sustained crisis’ according to independent research commissioned by learning disability charity Hft and Care England, which represents adult social care providers.

The report, based on a large-scale survey of adult social care providers, finds that despite a £7.5bn funding boost in the 2022 Autumn Statement, there has been little progress in the key challenges facing the sector.

Energy cost increases of up to 350% and unfunded rises in the National Living Wage left 40% of adult social care providers in deficit in 2023. Researchers say it was of particular concern that the vast majority (84%) of care providers said that recent funding initiatives from Government – such as the Market Sustainability and Improvement Fund and International Recruitment Fund – made no difference to the financial sustainability of their organisation over the past year.

The result of the funding pressures was found to have reduced capacity to deliver care across providers, with nearly half (43%) closed services or handed back contracts and one fifth (18%) saying they offered care to fewer people. Four in ten (39%) said they considered exiting the market altogether.

These financial challenges are compounded by a deep-rooted and systematic crisis in the workforce. Despite a rise in international recruitment, staffing shortages remain widespread. Nearly half (44%) of organisations had to turn down admissions due to a lack of staff.

Researchers said the recent tightening of immigration rules for overseas care staff and a growing concern about the dire state of local government finances only serve to add to the distress surrounding the future of the adult social care sector.

The organisations behind the report are now calling on the government to implement immediate measures to support the care sector – including improving commissioning practice, revising VAT arrangements and removing barriers to ethical international recruitment.

“It is difficult to offer words of hope and motivation when the past 12 months have seen the adult social care sector engulfed in a sustained state of crisis,” says Steve Veevers, Chief Executive of Hft.

“Despite moving away from the immediate challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been little respite from the fundamental financial and workforce pressures that have faced our sector for many years. The fact that 43% of providers told us they closed a part of their organisation or handed back contracts last year is testament to this.

“It is extremely disappointing that the over-arching recommendations from last year’s Sector Pulse Check report haven’t been actioned and, despite additional investment from Government, we continue to operate amid significant challenges.”

“The narrative that social care is under pressure is not a new one. What’s disappointing is that we find ourselves in a worsening crisis amid the Government’s narrative of ‘record investment’ into the sector,” Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said. “While the Government did make substantial commitments in the 2022 Autumn Budget, the outcomes have not matched the ambition.”

“It’s clear that the way our system is funded needs a rethink. For years, adult social care providers have absorbed increased costs and inflationary pressures without corresponding funding. When money is made available it simply isn’t cutting through. Recent changes to immigration rules and an insufficient Local Government Finance Settlement this year further suggest a government that is heading in the wrong direction. The sector’s needs are now on red alert.”

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