New survey findings from ADASS (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) show that more than half a million people are now waiting for an adult social care assessment, for care or a direct payment to begin or for a review of their care.
Responding to the report, Homecare Association CEO 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. Councils are reporting high levels of unmet need in the community, and this latest survey from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) shows over half a million people are waiting for assessments, reviews, and/or care and support to begin.
Whilst hours of homecare delivered have increased by 16% over the last year, demand continues to outstrip supply, with almost an 8-fold increase in hours required but not delivered in January to March 2022 compared with the same period in 2021.
The vacancy rate in homecare has continued to rise over the last year, with the latest data from Skills for Care showing a new high of 13.5%. Worsening shortages of homecare workers are due to a combination of factors.
Poor pay, terms and conditions of employment have long been a problem for the workforce, particularly in the state-funded part of the sector which represents 70% of the whole. These stem from inadequate funding by central government and poor practices in commissioning and purchase of homecare by public sector organisations. In recent years, the homecare sector has also been adversely affected by Brexit, COVID-19 and now international conflict. Tightening of labour markets, pressure on supply chains and rising energy costs are fuelling inflation. This is leading to a rapid rise in cost of living, which is placing further pressure on low-paid workers and their employers. Many homecare providers are operating with slim margins and are unable to charge their customers high enough fees, as the latter are public sector organisations with monopsony purchasing power. Far from fixing social care, the government’s policies are steadily weakening it. This affects all of us. In addition to high levels of unmet need in the community, NHS hospitals are struggling to discharge people back home due to inadequate capacity in homecare. Prolonged stays in hospital when people are ready to go home increase the risk of infection and deterioration in physical and mental health. Delayed discharges also mean that hospital beds are unavailable for new admissions, which contributes to ambulance waits, cancelled clinics and cancelled operations. This makes it difficult for the NHS to respond in a timely way to emergencies and to reduce waiting lists. Regrettably, some people are dying before their time due to insufficient investment in social care and health services by central and local government.
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."