This week, the charity sector expressed its disappointment and ire after the government backtracked on its budget promises for social care. The figures have been cut dramatically, with the primary concern being the slashing in half of the fund that was supposed to be used to upscale and improve the workforce. The consequences of cuts in this field will be dire, affecting not only those in need of care and on waiting lists, but the families, communities, and healthcare system as a whole.
In light of this important development in social care, this week we’re discussing how the sector is currently faring, and will be exploring how our research with the public further reflects the dangers of funding cuts.
The present state of social care
The government released a white paper in December 2021 covering their strategy for adult social care reform. In it, they pledged an investment of at least £500m over the course of three years, specifically dedicated to the improvement and replenishment of the social care workforce. However, earlier this week the Department of Health and Social Care revealed that their new strategy only involves half as much funding, with only £250m set aside for this purpose.
Among other concerning alterations, including to the sum being used to update and digitise social care, the brass tacks of the issue have presented themselves. Despite protections assured to social care over the past decade, our aging population and increasing demand for these services saw per-person spending fall by 12% between 2010 and 2019. Then, the pandemic and the emergency easements which came with it put further strain on the sector, contributing to what is now a deficit of 165,000 care workers, leaving around 1 in every 10 posts empty.
The rise in public demand and underfunding of the social care system have now resulted in 500,000 people waiting for care, largely the elderly, disabled, or sufferers of mental illness. These groups rely heavily on these services, and without adequate support can be subject to isolation, poor health, and a reduced quality of life.
It’s important to recognise that these services are more widely used within the UK than you might expect. In our research with the general public, we determined in February this year that 28% of the public have had personal experience with social care, and as many as 48% know someone who has. And while only one in five (21%) members of the public think that there is adequate provision of social care in the UK, breaking this down by age demographics shows us that an even smaller fraction, only 10% of those ages 55 and older, agree. Tackling this perceived shortfall must begin with the government being consistent with its budgeting and funding the sector adequately.
The impact on charities
Charities made up 28% of organisations featured in a report from last month from trade organisation Care England. In it, 42% of organisations said that they were having to stop delivering on parts of their service provision, and 35% said that they were now offering care to fewer people as a result of budget cuts. Many claimed that this is being seen most acutely in staffing issues. The staffing problems created by Brexit, the pandemic, and the compounding burnout that overwork brings about have decimated our numbers of care workers. This loss is felt between charities, for-profit care units, and the NHS, all of whom rely on this network of carers, and rising demand can’t be met by any one of these groups – any surplus of demand that one group meets will fall to another to pick up.
But what is there to be done? Well, one step that charities in this field can take is to try to rally the public to get involved in campaigns against these cuts. Social care, we’ve found, isn’t a well understood entity within the public. While 16% call it one of their primary issues of concern, 48% told us that they don’t know how it is funded. There is potentially latent support for this cause that is being held behind a lack of knowledge. We need to help the public to recognise the dire consequences of the budget cuts announced this week, and support their understanding of the systems that are keeping people cared for in our country.
If you're interested in learning more about our sector data, consider downloading an information pack below.