The number of people requesting adult social care support from their local authority has continued to grow even as the number of people actually receiving care has fallen, a study from the King’s Fund think tank has found.
The total number of requests for support rose to 1.19m in 2021-22 and is expected to exceed 2m in the coming year, according to publicly available data compiled by the King’s Fund. This was an increase of 9% from the total in 2015/16.
The most rapid growth in demand was among working age adults. Since 2015-16, the number of requests from 18-64 year-olds rose by 22%.
Based on an estimate that each person would submit 1.5 requests to a local authority, the report’s authors estimated that over 1.3m people sought help in the year 2021-22.
Despite the steady growth in demand for services, found that the number of people receiving social care has actually fallen over the same time period.
The total number of people receiving long term social care fell from 841,000 in 2020-21 to 818,000 in 2021-22.
This decrease was almost entirely driven by a drop in the number of older people receiving care, with over 20,000 less over 65s receiving care in 2021-22 than in the previous year.
Since 2015-16 the number of older people in long term care has fallen by 10%, with an overall reduction of people in care of almost 60,000.
The report’s co-author Simon Bottery said, in a tweet, that ‘the overwhelming, depressing trend in adult social care is that more people are requesting support but fewer people are getting it.’
In response, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, commented that the King’s Fund study clearly showed that ‘citizens are being left without support. This is a trend that has been happening over many years, and it is one of the reasons why the NHS is in perpetual crisis.’
‘Governments need to understand that if they get social care right and they support people before they go into crisis, this will not only be good for individual citizens, but it also will transform the pressures in the social care and health system,’ he said.
The King’s Fund attributes the reduction of the number of people in long term care to local authority financial pressures.
The report says: ‘Government funding for local authorities fell by 55 per cent between 2010/11 and 2019/20, resulting in a 29 per cent real-terms reduction in spending power. This, in effect, has led local authorities to ‘ration’ social care to those in the greatest need.’
While it could be possible that the decrease in provision was due to increased use of ‘enabling approaches’ which seek to provide support from the patient’s wider community, the report found that ‘there has been no significant change in indicators that might suggest such an approach has been taken’.
Commenting on the report’s findings, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Everyone should have access to good quality social care when they need it.
‘We are providing up to £7.5 billion in funding available over the next two years to support adult social care. This will put the adult social care system on a stronger financial footing and help local authorities address waiting lists, low fee rates, and workforce pressures in the sector.
‘We are also promoting careers in adult social care through our annual domestic recruitment campaign and are investing £15 million to increase international recruitment of care workers.’