Financial pressures sees number of social care providers cutting services double in past year

The number of social care providers forced to cut support for vulnerable adults has doubled in the past year because of financial pressures, according to new research.

One in five organisations said they offered care to fewer people so they could balance the books or deal with rising wage bills, it was suggested.

A third of almost 80 care providers surveyed by charity Hft said they had to cut staff in the past 12 months, while nearly half had closed down parts of their organisation.

Hft, which supports adults with learning disabilities, said its study indicated that more than two out of five providers reported a negative effect on the quality of care they provided.

This had led to a fall in staff morale and an increase in complaints, the charity reported.

Billy Davis, public affairs and policy manager for Hft, said the sad reality was that the social care sector has “run out of options”.

The charity’s report last year showed that providers were focusing on streamlining through internal efficiency savings, but cuts were now affecting people, not just processes, he said.

He added: “The lack of a sustainable cash injection for the sector has seen providers resorting to offering care to fewer people to manage spiralling costs at a time when demand for social care is widely acknowledged to be growing.

“The fact that providers are now having to take what they reported to be their least favoured cost-cutting measures illustrates that these decisions are not being taken lightly.

“A lack of alternatives has left providers with no choice but to make decisions culturally at odds with the way they want to run their organisations, such as handing back services and, ironically, shedding staff in the midst of a sector-wide recruitment crisis.

“Given the fragility of the social care sector, there’s never been a more important time to hear the views of the organisations providing care for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“It’s clear that at its heart social care funding is, and continues to remain, a national issue that requires a national solution.”

Josie Dent, of economic consultancy Cebr, which conducted the research for Hft, said: “Pressure on social care providers to cut costs while also paying for increasing wage bills and agency worker fees has ultimately culminated in organisations taking drastic measures.

“The share of providers now offering care to fewer individuals doubled compared to last year’s survey.

“Meanwhile, the proportion having to make internal efficiency savings, close parts of the organisation or hand back services to local authorities remained high.

“The sector desperately needs more funding in order to provide the same level of care and support to the people who need it.”

Hft called on the Department for Health and Social Care to bring forward “long overdue” proposals on reforms for the long-term future funding of adult social care.

Ian Hudspeth (pictured), chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “The provider market is an essential part of the care and support system and councils also work closely with local care providers to ensure a good quality market of services.

“However, given the serious funding and demand pressures facing adult social care, there is a known gap between what providers say they need and what councils pay.

“We were pleased to hear the Prime Minister’s recent pledge to bring forward a plan for a solution to adult social care this year.

“Our own social care Green Paper outlined some key recommendations on how best to urgently resolve this issue, which the Government has an opportunity to take forward.

“The forthcoming Budget is also an important opportunity to address the crucial issue of funding while looking ahead to finding a longer-term, cross-party solution to adult social care, which we at the LGA are happy to play our part in.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Everyone should have access to the best quality, compassionate care and we are providing councils with access to an additional £1.5 billion in 2020-21 to meet rising demand and continue to stabilise the social care system.

“There are complex questions to address, which is why we will seek to build cross-party consensus. But, as the Prime Minister has said, we will deliver on our promises and bring forward a plan for social care this year.”

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The Government’s complete failure to fund the care sector is devastating the lives of vulnerable people and their families.

“Staff have warned for years that care is in crisis and in desperate need of immediate investment.

“They simply can’t deliver proper care in 15-minute homecare visits while being paid poverty wages.”

Ben Glover, senior researcher at think-tank Demos, said: “Less support from care providers means that unpaid carers are likely being put under even more pressure. This is of great concern when we know the immense challenges already faced by this group, the unsung heroes of our care system.

“The Government and opposition parties must urgently come together to find a cross-party compromise on care.

“If the deadlock in Westminster can’t be broken then we need to consider innovative alternatives that let the public decide, such as citizens’ assemblies or forms of digital democracy.”

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