THINGS HAVE NEVER BEEN SO BAD, the leader of England’s social services directors has warned, in a desperate plea to the Government to get a grip as adult social care enters the most challenging winter it has ever faced.

A “staggering” number of people are not getting the care and support they need, as requests for help outstrip local councils’ ability to provide it, said Sarah McClinton, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).

More than 500,000 people in England are waiting for an assessment or review of their care needs or for a care and support package to commence. Councils are receiving an average 5,400 new requests for help every day.

The Government promised an extra £500 million this winter in the form of a ‘winter discharge fund’ to provide more services for people who are waiting to leave hospital, but no allocations of the money have yet been made. ADASS asked for this in July so that there would be time to make arrangements with staff for recruitment and retention. It is now November.

Addressing the annual National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester, McClinton said the funding was welcome but amounted to nothing more than another sticking plaster on a deep and worsening wound. “If we could have traded all the sticking plasters we have seen over the past 10 winters for one proper bandage, we might have started to heal the wound”, she said.

Independent experts have calculated that social care needs an annual investment of at least £7 billion to meet people’s needs, improve care workers’ pay and begin to implement reforms that would create modern services giving people choice and control.

McClinton, who is  director of health and adult services at Greenwich council in south London, told the conference: “As professionals and as family members, we all feel more vulnerable and uncertain than we did even a few weeks ago. Be under no illusion: things have never been so bad.

“But as winter approaches rapidly we must continue to focus unwaveringly on the older and disabled people who need our help, on those who work in care and support so tirelessly for so little reward and on unpaid carers whose dedication is so extraordinary but so vital.”

Amid rumours that the Government is to delay introduction of some of the limited social care reforms to which it is so far committed – an £86,000 lifetime cap on personal liability for care costs and raising to £100,000 of the capital threshold for state support – McClinton sounded a warning.

While acknowledging that there were “sound reasons” for a short delay, to enable councils to prepare better for the changes, she said: “.. if we don’t get to the starting line of resolving who’s paying for care and paying for it properly we are never going to get to the first hurdle, let alone get over it.”

* Read the speech in full here.

* Source: Association of Directors of Adult Social Services