Failures by policymakers to fully resource and fund social care have resulted in a “lost decade” and an “overstretched” system that is now at “breaking point”, according to a hard-hitting report.
A team led by Professor Jon Glasby at the University of Birmingham’s School of Social Policy says that the social care crisis is the result of various governments failing to act on alarms raised in 2010.
Under Labour government, Glasby provided research, commissioned by Downing Street and the UK Department of Health, which concluded the system was widely recognised as “broken” and that, with no action, the costs of adult social care could double within two decades.
The new report, published in the Journal of Social Policy, states that not only were these warnings not heeded, but the situation for adult social care has since got worse.
“Predictably, the result has been greater unmet/under-met need, more self-funding, lower quality care, a crisis among care providers, and much greater pressure on staff, families and partner agencies,” the report says.
Commenting on the research, Glasby said: “Our research has explored the future reform and costs of adult social care, and the high cost of inaction. In 2010, we were adamant that doing nothing was not an option. Our 2020 update shows that, without swift government intervention, the adult social care system could quickly become unsustainable. Even though this research was carried out before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, urgent action is likely to be even more pressing in the current context.”
The report states that while the situation for social care is urgent, the “human misery” caused by this lost decade is not as visible as financial pressures on more “prominent, popular and better understood” services, such as hospitals or schools.
“When social care for older people is cut to the bone, lives are blighted, distress and pressure increase, and the resilience of individuals and their families is ground down”, says the paper.
“Yet this happens slowly – day by day, week by week, and month by month. It is not sudden, dramatic or hi-tech in the way a crisis in an A&E department may be, and tends to attract less media, political and popular attention… With yet more urgency than in 2010 we warn: Doing nothing is not an option.”
Caption: Photograph by Dominik Lange.