Nearly 400,000 elderly and disabled people left on social care ‘waiting lists’

A staffing crisis has hit social care, industry leaders say (Picture: Getty Images)

People in need of social care face a ‘rapidly deteriorating’ situation this winter, industry experts have warned after a damning survey.

Bosses estimate that almost 400,000 people are on care ‘waiting lists’, amid fears that services for older and disabled people are worsening and their needs ‘are not being met’.

They highlighted huge increases in demand and falls in staffing over the last year – and claimed ‘red lights are flashing right across our dashboard’.

More than 204,000 people are waiting to have their social care needs assessed – a ‘very significant’ rise from September, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass).

And there are more than 25,000 people thought to be waiting for care or a direct payment so they can organise their care, while nearly 170,000 people are waiting for an overdue review of their care plan.

Of those waiting for an initial assessment, more than 40,000 have been waiting longer than half a year, the survey of 85 social care bosses suggests.

The report states: ‘This is not just an inconvenience. It means that people’s needs are not being met.

Team leader for housebound vaccinations, Julie Fletcher prepares to administer the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to housebound patient, Jacqueline Chaplin at her home in Hasland, near Chesterfield, central England on April 14, 2021.
Social care leaders say there is ‘ ‘skeletal staffing’ levels (Picture: AFP)

‘It is likely to mean that their wellbeing and mental and physical health deteriorates or worse.’

Adass urged the Government to urgently stabilise the sector with emergency funds.

More than half of English care directors responded to its snap survey, between November 2 and 18, before their responses on demand and provision were averaged to give a national estimate.

The survey found that there has been a further significant increase in the number of hours of care provided to people at home from August to October – up 15% from May to July.

However, the record growth is not keeping up with demand or the complexity of need, Adass estimated.

It believes more than 1.5 million hours of commissioned home care could not be provided between August and October due to a lack of capacity.

This level of unmet need is almost three times that recorded for May to July, and more than five times that for February to April.

It also found that almost half of councils reported care home closures or providers going out of business in the past six months.

That is up from 35% in the summer, and 25% before the pandemic.

Adass president Stephen Chandler said: ‘This survey confirms our worst fears. Red lights are flashing right across our dashboard.

‘Despite magnificent efforts by the committed, courageous and compassionate people working in social care who are delivering extraordinary amounts of care and support, services are failing to meet everyone’s needs and older and disabled people are suffering.

‘The Government must now acknowledge the scale of the crisis and step in with emergency funding and measures to ensure we can get through the winter ahead.’

Adass is calling for the Government to commit to a £1,000 retention bonus to stem the tide of carers quitting to work in sectors with better pay and hours.

It also wants to see £1.5 billion invested immediately to prevent the further collapse of services, and the equivalent amount to support unpaid carers.

Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), claimed staff are quitting ‘every day’ to work in sectors like retail or hospitality, with managers stepping in because they cannot fill rotas.

The ‘skeletal staffing’ of services is taking away the essential support that disabled people need to maintain control over their lives and will end up placing further pressure on the NHS, he added.

He said: ‘The erosion of support for people who draw on social care services is happening locally, in people’s homes and out of sight.

‘There is no headline grabbing “crash” but the realities of Government’s under-funding of social care is having profound consequences on the quality of life for disabled people.’

It comes days after the Government passed a controversial social care plan which could see some people forced to sell their house to pay for care.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said the report was ‘another deafening alarm bell about staffing shortages in the care sector’ and demanded a pay rise for care workers.


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