Acceleration of care closures and contract handbacks, survey finds

Stephen Chandler, ADASS president

Councils are experiencing an acceleration of care home and homecare provider closures and contract handbacks.

A snap survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) showed over the past six months 48% of local authorities experienced the closure or end of trading of residential and nursing homes. This compared to 35% in the six months before its activity survey in June. For the half-year period before Covid-19 the figure was 25%.

Respondents reported 1,436 people were affected because of closures or cessation of trading. The highest number reported by a local authority was 200.

An average of 37.8 people were impacted per local authority where it was reported one or more providers closing or ceasing trading in the past six months. This compared to 33 people per council in the previous six months in June’s activity survey.

One in two councils has had to respond to a care home closure or bankruptcy over the past six months.

The latest rapid survey, which took place between 2-18 November, also showed more homecare providers closed.

The proportion of local authorities reporting closures, or providers ceasing to trade, for homecare was 41% for the past six months. This compared to 21% for the previous half-year in the activity survey. The figure was 15% for the six months before the pandemic.

Respondents reported 1,535 people were affected by the closure or cessation of trading. This is an average of 50 people per council, compared to 21 in the previous six months in the activity survey.

In total, 85 directors in England responded to the survey, which is over half of the 152 in the country.

ADASS said the results revealed a ‘rapidly deteriorating situation’ with older and disabled people left waiting for help.

Almost 400,000 people are now waiting for an assessment of their needs or a service, while more than 1.5 million hours of commissioned homecare could not be provided between August and October because of a lack of staff.

‘This survey confirms our worst fears,’ said ADASS president Stephen Chandler. ‘Red lights are flashing right across our dashboard.

‘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.’

Jane Townson, Homecare Association chief executive

Homecare Association chief executive Dr Jane Townson fears the situation could worsen if the government imposes Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of deployment, which is due to come into force in April. ‘At least 20% of the homecare workforce could be lost as a result of this policy, leaving over 100,000 older and disabled people without care,’ she said.

‘As central government appears determined to sabotage the care sector, there is an urgent need for local government and the NHS to work with care providers to develop contingency plans. Risks to older and disabled people of worsening staff shortages and service failure must be mitigated.’

A government spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to delivering world-leading social care, that’s why we are investing an additional £5.4bn over three years, which will allow us to build our comprehensive adult social care reform programme.

‘Care homes and homecare providers are already benefiting from the new £162.5m workforce retention and recruitment fund to assist local authorities and care providers in working together to ease workforce pressures in a variety of ways.’