Financial pressures could start to directly impact the vulnerable adults relying on social care, according to the Hft annual Sector Pulse Check.
The charity's annual report shows that the number of providers handing back contracts in the past 12 months has more than doubled.
The independent research found that in 2018 more than half (59%) of providers had been forced to close down some parts of their organisation or hand back contracts to local authorities to deal with cost pressures. Worryingly, 68% envisaged having to do the same in the near future while 11% foresaw a reduction in the quality of care if their financial situation did not improve, which could mean that those supported by the sector may begin to be directly affected by the funding pressures, says Hft.
The survey also found that recruitment remains a challenge, with 80% of providers reporting low wages as the biggest barrier to recruiting and retaining staff. In the last year, the number of providers citing the increased cost of agency workers as one of their main cost pressures has increased from 13% to 63%. It comes second only to rising wage bills – as providers struggle to fill staff vacancies, in turn affecting the continuity of support they are able to provide.
This is the second Hft annual Sector Pulse Check report, carried out by independent economics and business consultancy Cebr, and is the first of its kind to focus primarily on learning disability providers. Based on survey analysis from social care providers, it provides an annual snapshot of the financial health of the social care sector over the past year and an idea of how providers suspect the next twelve months will progress.
The report also highlighted that:
- In response to the ongoing recruitment challenge, more than three-quarters (78%) of providers increased the focus they allocated to their recruitment efforts over the past year, with two-thirds (67%) of these running a dedicated recruitment campaign to help reduce staff vacancies.
- Only 4% of providers have completed their preparations for Brexit, while a further 28% have either not yet started or were less prepared than last year.
- There is a lack of confidence that Government will resolve the sleep-in crisis, with the majority of the sector (72%) stating they did not believe that this year would see a decisive end to the issue.
Billy Davis, Public Affairs and Policy Manager for Hft said, 'This year’s sector pulse check is a red flag for the future of social care. With repeated calls for a sustainable funding solution going unheeded, we are now seeing the true cost of government inaction on providers...The underfunding of social care is a national crisis that requires a national solution. With the green paper on social care now long overdue, we call on the government to urgently address the issues facing the sector, before it affects some of the most vulnerable adults in our society.'
VODG Chief Executive, Dr Rhidian Hughes responded to the Hft annual Sector Pulse Check, saying, 'People with a learning disability rely on the state to pay for essential care services and this new report puts the spotlight firmly on Government and its failure to adequately fund the sector. Local commissioning is not keeping pace with the rising costs of care provision, investment in the sector is being seriously eroded and the sustainability of future services is now under real threat. This situation is not fair to the individuals and families who rely on care services, nor the workforce, and Government must take steps to immediately shore up the sector.
'With the ongoing uncertainty over the UK’s exit from the EU, the limited preparedness in dealing with Brexit is a major source of concern. Brexit exacerbates the threat to social care because the likely economic impact may lead to less public funding and potentially create instability in the sector’s labour market. Government needs to step forward and actively plan with the sector to ensure that essential care and support services are not put at risk.'