Councils facing ‘avalanche’ of requests for care and support, finds ADASS survey

Stephen Chandler cropped

The COVID pandemic has created an “avalanche” of demand for social care, with nearly 55,000 older people and disabled adults waiting for an assessment of their needs, a new report from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has revealed.

The ADASS Spring Survey, published today, shows that a further 19,000 people who have been and assessed and deemed eligible are waiting for a service or direct payment to arrange their care and support.

Of those awaiting assessment, almost 7,000 have been waiting more than six months.

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ADASS president Stephen Chandler (pictured) said: “Many directors are saying they have never seen such an avalanche of need. Tens of thousands of people have lost their independence during the pandemic, suffered fresh distress or seen existing care and support arrangements break down. Many have delayed coming forward until now.

“Behind every one of the 75,000 cases of people waiting for an assessment or for care and support is a human story of someone unable to lead the life they want to lead and enjoy the minimum that any of us would want to guarantee for our fellow citizens.

The concern for local care directors is that rising demand for social care will increasingly mean that more people in England will miss out on the support that they need.

Of the 147 directors surveyed between May 20 and June 18, four-fifths reported that they were not fully confident they had the resources to meet their legal obligations to provide sufficient care and support.

And while people wait for their assessments, there are risks that their conditions will deteriorate, placing further pressure on the system.

Chandler explained: “Whilst social work teams do their best to prioritise based on the information they glean, it is inevitable that many people will deteriorate, become mentally or physically unwell, lose confidence, fall, or that unreported or concealed abuse or neglect will worsen.”

The ADASS survey also found a significant number of overdue reviews of care and support plans, with directors identifying this is the case for 159,271 people. Under the Care Act 2014’s statutory guidance, councils should review care plans no later than every 12 months.

The emergence of a deluge of requests for support follow 10 years of financial cuts that have left councils and care providers overstretched. This year adult social care departments are expected to collectively find £601 million in savings and are facing a funding shortfall of £204m.

The survey found that any local authorities are drawing down council reserves and relying on one-off and temporary sources of funding to cover adult social care locally.

Over a third (34%) of directors reported that overspends in 2020/21 were funded from council reserves, compared to 1% in 2016-17 and 4% in 2018-19, and 75% using Covid-19 funding.

This appears to be a trend that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, rather than an unusual set of circumstances, ADASS said.

Chandler, who is the director of adult social care at Oxfordshire county council, called on the government to urgently publish its long-delayed plans for the reform of the social care system.

He commented: “Our survey shows starkly why the government must now, without any further delay, produce its plans to reform social care. We have called for the outline of the plans to be tabled before parliament starts its six-week summer recess next week. Those plans must address the needs of people of working age as well as older people.

Chandler added: “We do not have time on our side.”

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke