Social care: Next PM must overhaul care amid astonishing level of unmet need, say charities


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The new prime minister must “turn the page” on social care to transform it amid an “astonishing” level of unmet need, charities have warned.

The Care and Support Alliance (CSA), which represents more than 60 charities, is calling on the next Conservative Party leader to act fast, with research suggesting one in eight older people is going without the social care they need.

But frontrunner Liz Truss has repeatedly promised to reverse the rise in National Insurance that was introduced as part of the government plan to fund the NHS and social care.

Analysis by Age UK has found around 12 per cent of people over 50 in England are not getting the help they need with activities such as washing, dressing, eating and getting in or out of bed.

Extrapolating this to England’s population, it suggests around 2.6 million older adults have some unmet need for social care.

Of those with unmet needs, 70 per cent have trouble getting dressed, 47 per cent have difficulty washing, and 36 per cent struggle to get in and out of bed.

A fifth of those with a care need that is not being met are lonely.

The latest research suggests the number of adults waiting for social care in England has almost doubled in a year, to more than 500,000.

Around 600 people every day are joining growing waiting lists to be assessed for social care and support in England.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services says the waits are having a devastating impact on people’s lives.

The new government must “take a more intelligent approach to social care” and provide cash to address pressures on the care system, according to the alliance members, who say successive leaders have neglected the sector through years of underfunding.

They argue reforms “will not and cannot” fulfil Boris Johnson’s promise to “fix” social care because they are focused on subsidising the amount people pay, instead of improving the quality or availability of care.

Last month MPs also called for a cash injection, saying a long-term plan is needed to help the sector meet immediate cost pressures and become sustainable.

In January a survey of councils in England found more than half were resorting to exceptional measures to ration social care.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK and alliance co-chairwoman, called the level of unmet need “truly astonishing”.

“There’s no doubt that the long-term neglect of social care services by central government is having very real consequences, not only for the individuals whose lives are at best diminished, and their families who often have to pick up the pieces, but for other public services too, especially the NHS,” she said.

“What folly it has been for our politicians to be so careless about such a crucial public service – it’s high time that changed, and I hope our new prime minister will turn the page and take a more intelligent approach to social care.”

She added staff need to be “properly recompensed”, as numbers of vacancies due to uncompetitive wages and conditions were rising.

Jackie O’Sullivan, of Mencap and alliance co-chairwoman, said many younger disabled adults were being “condemned to living lives where just getting out of the house is a constant struggle”.

She added: “The millions of older and disabled people putting up with inadequate services, if they get any service at all, need the incoming PM to get a grip of the problem and aim for transformation through proper reform, but as it stands it is never going to be possible with the meagre funding allocated by the government up to now.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Reforming adult social care is a key priority, which is why we’re providing £5.4 billion over the next three years to end spiralling care costs, support the workforce and improve the care people and their families receive.

“Local authorities are responsible for assessing a person’s eligibility for care and financial support, and meeting those needs. Where people are not eligible for financial support, local authorities can support them to make their own care arrangements if needed.”