SOCIAL CARE 360, a review of the social care sector published annually by the King’s Fund since 2019, provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of social care in England. This year’s report published on 2 March highlights the ongoing challenges faced by the social care sector, including staffing shortages, underfunding and increased demand for services.

The number of new requests to local authorities for support has increased, but the number of people receiving publicly funded care fell. The King’s Fund says the most likely reason for this long-term trend of falling receipt of long-term care, despite increasing demand, is the fall in local authority spending power.

The report also highlights the challenges faced by unpaid carers and the on-going lack of support that is available to them, showing that practical support to families has dropped. Fewer unpaid carers now receive paid support and respite care has also fallen.

One of the key findings of the report is the urgent need for reform in the social care system: something for which Carers UK and other charities have been campaigning.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Unfortunately, the findings of the report come as no surprise, but continue to remain of huge concern. There are an estimated 5.7 million carers in the UK, without whom our health and care systems would simply collapse. Families contribute the equivalent care to 4 million paid care workers, often at a cost to their own health and wellbeing.

“These cuts to support are resulting in families providing increasing care which is unacceptable. It comes at a time when the Census 2021 shows the number of people providing substantial care across England and Wales is at an all time high, with a staggering increase of 412,000 carers providing over 20 hours of care per week.  Shortages in care are simply piling the pressure onto families impacting on their work, health and wellbeing.

“The near halving of carers receiving respite care since 2015/16 is particularly worrying, especially since our own research highlights the mental and physical health benefits of doing so. Vacancies for care staff according to the report are the highest since records began, putting further pressure on unpaid carers and families to fill the gaps, often at the cost of their own health.

“We urgently need to see how Government plans to spend the £25 million fund that was featured in their 2021 social care White Paper, People at the heart of care: adult social care reform, over a year ago, which aimed to ‘kickstart’ changes in support for family carers.”

“But that’s not all. We need to see substantial longer-term funding for social care as well as short term investment. For far too long Carers UK and others have been warning the Government about the potential detrimental effects of the lack of investment in the social care system and it’s clear to see how pressure is being passed to families.”

* Read: Social care 360 here.

* Sources: The King’s Fund and Carers UK