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Adult social care services braced for ‘most challenging year ever’ – Adass

Just one in eight directors of adult social care services in England are confident they have the resources to meet their responsibilities this year, a survey has found (Alamy/PA)
Just one in eight directors of adult social care services in England are confident they have the resources to meet their responsibilities this year, a survey has found (Alamy/PA)

Just one in eight directors of adult social care services in England are confident they have the resources to meet their responsibilities this year, a survey has found.

Adult social care bosses are seeing more people request help because of pressures in the health system, lack of community services and breakdowns of unpaid carer arrangements.

They say more people are also seeking support because of mental health issues and domestic abuse safeguarding concerns.

And they warn existing challenges of increasing need, fragile care markets, and underpaid, undervalued and overstretched workforces are being compounded by rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, with services braced for their “most challenging” year yet ahead.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) surveyed directors of adult social care at 152 councils between May 5 and June 15, with 144 responses.

Some 12% said they are confident they have the resources to deliver on all of their legal responsibilities this year, falling to 3% next year.

Respondents reported increased requests and referrals for support because of mental health issues (87%), domestic abuse safeguarding concerns (67%), a breakdown of unpaid carer arrangements (73%) and a lack of other services in the community (51%).

Some 82% said they were receiving more referrals of people discharged from hospital, with 46% reporting increased activity because someone could not be admitted to hospital, and 74% saying they were recording more referrals and requests for support from the community.

Around seven in 10 directors said care providers in their area have closed, ceased trading or handed back contracts to local councils.

And almost half (49%) of directors are not confident that unpaid carers will be able to cope financially with the cost-of-living crisis, with three-quarters believing that this will result in increased need for social care.

Adass president Sarah McClinton said: “Adult social care has long been in a fragile state, but growing economic turbulence is rapidly deepening our problems and concerns.

“We are at the centre of the storm. Those who need or work in care are amongst the most exposed to the cost-of-living crisis.

“A growing number of directors tell us that they have never been more concerned than they are about the winter to come.

“We need action and funding now to support recovery in social care, just as in the NHS, and build firmer foundations for the reforms we all want to see.”

Interim deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Miriam Deakin, said: “Without adequate funding, the social care sector, inextricably linked with the NHS, will continue to struggle with a serious lack of capacity – particularly in home care – with major knock-on effects for health services.

“Hospitals struggle to discharge patients who are well enough to recover at or closer to home, which in turn badly affects timely hospital admissions, including in A&E and the handover of patients from waiting ambulances.”

Emily Holzhausen, director of policy and public affairs at Carers UK, called the report’s evidence “alarming”.

She said: “The perpetual lack of care staff and rising costs of care mean family members are left with no choice but to pick up more care.

“Unpaid carers are now providing more care than at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and this is impacting their health and wellbeing.

“Amidst the growing cost-of-living crisis, this is also affecting their ability to work and pay their rising bills. The situation is simply unsustainable.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “Reforming adult social care is a priority and we are investing £5.4 billion over the next three years to end the lottery of unpredictable care costs and support the workforce.

“This includes £3.6 billion to enable all local authorities to move towards paying providers a fair cost of care, and a further £1.7 billion to begin major improvements across adult social care in England – on top of record annual funding to help councils respond to rising demands and cost pressures.

“Our social care workforce are valued, appreciated and supported, which is why we are also providing an additional £500 million for training to boost career opportunities.”