Increase in people asking for social care

April 26, 2019

There has been an increase in people asking for social care, according to a new report from The King's Fund. Rising disability among working-age adults and a growth in the number of people aged over 65 is putting the adult social care system under increased pressure.

This new analysis shows that the proportion of working-age adults approaching local authorities for support has risen by 4% – over 23,000 people – since 2015/16. At the same time, England’s increasing older population is fuelling greater demand for services.

Together, this has led to over 1.8 million requests for adult social care, up 2% since 2015/16. However, despite the increase in people asking for social care, fewer people are actually receiving it. Nearly 13,000 fewer people are receiving support and real-terms local authority spending on social care is £700m below what it was in 2010/11. The figures are presented in Social care 360, which brings together, for the first time, analysis of data from all major, publicly available data sources to provide a comprehensive overview of the adult social care system in England.

The report states that 18% of working-age people now report a disability, up 3% since 2010/11, and the proportion of disabled working-age adults reporting mental health conditions has increased from 24% to 36% in the last five years. This rise is mirrored by an increase in the number of working-age adults claiming disability benefits in recent years.

Amongst the increase in people asking for social care is more older people approaching their councils for support, as the population ages. But the proportion of over-65 year olds getting long-term social care from their local council has fallen by 6%. Unmet need among older people remains high, with 22% of older people saying they needed support but did not get it.

The report identifies several other key areas for concern:

  • The amount it costs councils to pay for care per week is increasing. The average per week cost of residential and nursing care for an older person now stands at £615, a real-terms increase of 6.6% since 2015/16.
  • The number of nursing and residential care beds available for people aged over 75 has fallen from 11.3 per 1,000 in 2012, to 10.1 per 1,000 today.
  • There is a growing staffing crisis in social care, with around 8% of jobs vacant at any one time. There are 1.6 million jobs in social care, up by 275,000 since 2009. But 390,000 staff leave their jobs each year.
  • Fewer family carers are receiving support from their local authority, but more are getting help through the national benefits system.
  • Despite the huge challenges facing social care, those people able to access care and support services report high levels of satisfaction. In 2017/18, 90% of social care users said they were either extremely or quite satisfied with their care.

Simon Bottery, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund and lead author of the report, said, 'This report shows that increasing need among working-age adults, an increasing older population and high levels of existing unmet need are combining to put immense pressure on our care and support system, now and for the future. Yet there is little evidence that the government understands or is willing to act on these trends despite the impact on older and disabled people, their families and carers.

'The social care Green Paper, which still has no release date over two years after it was announced, is an opportunity to set out the fundamental reform we desperately need. But while the green paper is delayed, the government must focus on what it can do to support people now. Putting more money into the system in this autumn’s Spending Review would help people to get the help they need while longer-term reform takes effect.'

Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society has responded to the report, saying, 'How many more of these warnings will it take before the Government is forced to act on this crisis? For more than two years we’ve been waiting to see proposals on how our failing social care system will be fixed. And every day that goes by without a funding solution, one in three people with MS continue to struggle without basic support to help them manage. MS, like many chronic conditions, can be painful and often exhausting, and we absolutely echo the King’s Fund’s call for investment in social care in the Spending Review. It’s the only way to bring an end to the misery this crisis has created.'


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