‘Significant challenges’ for care services over winter

Cllr Martin Tett

County councils are bracing themselves for a tough winter in social care as the number of requests for support continues to rise.

Local authorities in England saw 1.97 million requests from people for social care services in 2021-22, which is an average of 5,402 a day for each council. This is a rise of 65,000 individuals compared with pre-pandemic levels in 2020.

Analysis by the County Councils Network (CCN) showed 55,000 (85%) of the rise in new requests came from people living in county and rural areas. Councils in these areas said care provision was under significant pressure heading into the winter period.

Of the 1.97m requests for care nationally last year, 1.087m requests did not result in a service being provided – 55% of all cases. The proportion not receiving a service is higher in county and rural areas – 58% of all requests.

However, nationally 662,615 people received short-term services – 25,910 more than in 2019-20. These included short-term care packages or reablement services. Those going into residential or nursing care fell – dropping from 33,790 in 2019-20 to 31,440 in 2021-22.

Councils are waiting to find out their allocations of £2.3bn of additional funding announced by chancellor in the Autumn Budget, with money being used to speed up hospital discharge and free up bed capacity to reduce the NHS backlog.

CCN wants government to ‘minimise’ any conditions placed on how councils spend the money next year to allow them to work effectively with local NHS partners.

‘The chancellor’s Autumn Statement provided vital funding for local authorities, but the scale of the challenge facing the health and social care system means that were still facing one of our toughest winters yet,’ said Cllr Martin Tett, adult social care spokesperson for CCN.

‘We will be doing all we can, working in close collaboration with our health partners, to ensure that pressure on local health systems are kept to a minimum and that people are not waiting too long for a care package. The delay to social care reforms, and the additional funding provided by the chancellor, gives us a fighting chance, but there is no doubt significant challenges remain.’