Workforce shortages leading to increasing unmet need

Sarah McClinton

Almost 170,000 hours a week of homecare could not be delivered because of a shortage of care workers during the first three months of the year, representing a seven-fold increase since spring 2021.

Survey findings from Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) showed 506,131 were now waiting for social care in England.

Its latest data also found more than six in 10 councils that responded (61%) said they were having to prioritise assessments and were only able to respond to people where abuse or neglect was highlighted, for hospital discharge or after a temporary period of residential care to support recovery and reablement.

There has been a 16% increase in the number of hours of homecare that have been delivered since spring 2021. From 1 February to 30 April 2021, 34.6m homecare hours were delivered, while from 1 January to 31 March 2022, 40.3m were supplied.

However, there has been a bigger increase in the number of hours that could not be delivered due to insufficient workforce capacity. From 1 February to 30 April 2021, 286,148 hours were not able to be delivered, while between 1 January and 31 March 2022, 2.2 million hours were not, representing a 671% increase.

ADASS received 94 responses to its Waiting for Care and Support survey, which is a 62% response rate. The results have been extrapolated to represent figures for 152 local authorities.

It said the evidence showed levels of unmet, undermet or wrongly met needs were increasing, and the situation was getting worse, with family carers having to take on more responsibility.

‘We have not seen the bounce back in services after the pandemic in the way we had hoped. In fact, the situation is getting worse rather than better,’ said Sarah McClinton, ADASS president.

‘Social care is far from fixed. The health and social care reforms go some way to tackle the issue of how much people contribute to the cost of their care, but it falls short in addressing social care’s most pressing issues: how we respond to rapidly increasing unmet need for essential care and support and resolve the workforce crisis by properly valuing care professionals.’

The health and social care levy will provide £5.4bn over the next three years as part of the government’s reform plans. At least £500m will be provided to improve recruitment, retention, progression and staff wellbeing.

Cathie Williams, ADASS chief executive, said: ‘We need a funded plan so that we can ensure that everyone gets the care and support they need, with more of the health and social care levy being used to fund care and support in people’s homes and communities over the next two years. People cannot wait for funding trickle into adult social care and wider community services.’

Dr Jane Townson

Responding to the findings, Homecare Association chief executive Dr Jane Townson said: ‘Despite the positive intentions of the reform and integration agendas, there continue to be significant pressures on the homecare sector, with demand for homecare growing ever more intense.

‘Far from fixing social care, the government’s policies are steadily weakening it.

‘We continue to call on the government to invest properly in homecare so we can build capacity and reduce unmet need, take pressure off the NHS and help people live well at home and flourish in their communities.’

Rhidian Hughes, Voluntary Organisations Disability Group chief executive, added: ‘It is crucial we do not ignore the picture these words paint about delayed assessments and care. We are facing the very harsh reality of preventative and community services being pulled back, which will have profound consequences on the quality of life for disabled people and their families.’