Campaigners are calling for “urgent” help from the government to prevent hundreds of home care providers from going bust.
Representative body The Independent Care Group (ICG) said the danger of losing home care providers, as well as those running care and nursing homes, grew greater every day.
The group commented after a survey of domiciliary care providers revealed that more than a quarter of them risked going out of business.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “This confirms what we have feared for a long time, that the social care sector is in extreme danger and that providers and local authorities need urgent help to protect the care of our most vulnerable.
“Covid-19 hit a sector that had seen £8bn cut from its budget since 2010-11, some 1.4m people going without the care they need and 100,000 care vacancies on any one day.
“The brutal impact of coronavirus has exacerbated all of those problems and is leaving a sector on its knees. We need greater government support now and urgent reform of the sector for the future.”
A study for BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme found that out of 2,731 home care operators in the UK, 715 were in danger of closing. The sector has combined debts of £100m.
Padgham said he supported the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) in its working, calling for more support for the home care sector and a fairer price for the care it provides.
He said the BBC’s poll results echoed the ICG’s own survey of its members – who represent both home care providers and the owners of care and nursing homes – earlier this year.
It showed that 45% of respondents envisaged their business being at financial risk because of the ongoing fight against coronavirus.
But Padgham explained that the roots of the current crisis hitting social care providers goes back much further than Covid-19.
“We have suffered many years of neglect – all coronavirus has done has laid that neglect bare and left many providers on the brink of collapse. We need to see urgent action on reform or when we finally get through Covid-19 there won’t be a social care sector left,” he said.
Going forward, the ICG wants to see the total integration of NHS healthcare and social care; social care free at the point of need, funded through taxation or National Insurance; a commissioner for older people and those with Learning Disabilities in England; a national career pathway and salary framework for care staff; professional registration for care staff; a properly costed national rate for care fees; and needs-based continuing healthcare (CHC) payments.