Three-quarters of adult social care directors in England say they ‘aren’t confident’ about being able to fully offer statutory minimum social care support in their communities

ADASS survey also finds that more than a third of the more than 200,000 people waiting for a care assessment have been waiting for more than six months

Three-quarters of adult social care directors in English councils say they ‘aren’t confident’ about being able to fully offer statutory minimum social care support in their communities, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).

In its annual Spring Survey of England's adult social services directors – that presents information on issues including financial and market sustainability, homecare hours, and the number of people waiting for assessments, care plan reviews or direct payments to begin – ADASS warns that despite a short-term government funding boost announced in the Autumn Statement 2022 that has helped to reduce care waiting lists from a high watermark of 542,000 in April 2022 to 430,000 at the end of March 2023, this is still far too high, and well in excess of the 395,000 people that were waiting for care in Autumn 2021.

Among the other key findings from the survey are that –

  • three-quarters (76 per cent) of social care directors say they ‘aren’t confident’ about being able to fully meet their duties around market sustainability and the availability of the right care in the right place at the right time in 2024/2025;
  • 52 per cent of directors identified prevention and wellbeing as a statutory duty that they are 'less than confident' their budgets will meet, an increase from 40 per cent in 2022/2023;
  • 91 per cent of directors 'strongly agree or agree' that unpaid carers are coming forward with an increased level of need in their area over the past 12 months, with directors ranking burnout as the number one reason that has contributed to an increase in carer breakdown over the past year;
  • since November 2021, the number of people waiting for a care assessment has increased by 10 per cent from 204,241 to 224,978 in March 2023, and of these 82,087 (36 per cent) have been waiting for six months or more, an increase of 30 per cent since 30 April 2022 and nearly double (99 per cent) the figure reported in November 2021; and
  • despite a continued increase in the number of home care hours delivered, significantly more hours were needed – with more than half a million hours unable to be delivered across England due to lack of social care staff, equivalent to around £14.7 million worth of care that could have helped people stay independent at home, supporting carers and providing jobs.

In addition, ADASS highlights that social care leaders are warning that they are caught in a vicious cycle – struggling to prioritise support to keep people healthy and independent in order to reduce higher care needs in future, while also being limited in their efforts by the lack of capacity in NHS community health services that lead to more people becoming unwell and going to hospital or into a care home. As a result, more councils overspent on their adult social care budget last year than in previous years and there was a worrying increase in those relying on reserves to fund these pressures.

In response to the survey results, ADASS President Beverley Tarka said –

'Our findings show that a short-term funding boost from the government and the hard work social care teams have done to rebuild services after the pandemic is making a difference to thousands of people needing support and care, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Leaders tell us they are paddling hard to keep up against a tide of increasing and complex needs.

While the focus on people coming out of hospital is important, we need to focus more funds on keeping people independent and out of hospital in the first place so that they don’t end up needing more costly and complex medical care, which is bad for them and for the public purse.

To meet the challenges, we need a skilled and valued workforce to do this – bringing pay in line with equivalent posts in the NHS is important first step. And we need to offer investment in training and real career prospects in the profession so we can compete with other sectors.

In the short-term we are urging the government to unlock the £600 million social care reform funding they have held back so we can improve both staffing and support carers to help keep people in their homes. But to make real progress, we need a long-term plan for investment like the one in the roadmap we published in April, and the political will to make social care a priority over the next ten years so everyone can get the care they need, when they need it in the future.'

For more information, see ADASS Spring Survey 2023: Care waiting lists down but needs increasing.