One in seven needing social care required hospital treatment during pandemic – report

More than a quarter of people who need social care have seen their health deteriorate during the coronavirus pandemic, with one in seven requiring hospital treatment due to a lack of care, research has found.

A lack of care during the crisis has led to older and disabled people struggling with daily activities, worried about how to cope and missing medical appointments, according to the Care and Support Alliance (CSA).

Their survey, of more than 4,000 people with social care needs and carers, also found that 17% of unpaid carers who took part said that their health had deteriorated because of their caring responsibilities.

Overall, some 28% of respondents said their health had deteriorated, and a quarter of people who said they had trouble carrying out daily activities said they had not been given help by authorities when they asked for it.

Social care often provides older people with support with washing, dressing and eating, and helps younger adults with learning disabilities to live independently and fully.

The CSA said the results show that a lack of social care “undermines” people’s health, heaps pressure on the NHS and makes it “difficult or impossible” for people and their carers to live fulfilling lives.

Some 15% of respondents said they felt neglected and 18% felt scared when asked how they felt about the care they had received during the pandemic.

Of people with learning disabilities, 34% said they felt lonely or isolated and 25% had not been able to leave the house due to a lack of support.

The Government has said it is committed to reform of the social care sector and will set out plans later this year.

The CSA said it must urgently bring forward these proposals and address service and staffing gaps, improve quality of care and ensure people receive the help they need.

Bernard Gallagher, who has Lewy Body Dementia, ran away after going to stay in a care home to give his wife Sue, 77, respite from caring.

The 84-year-old from Kenilworth, Warwickshire, ended up spending 11 weeks in hospital during the first lockdown, which Mrs Gallagher believes could have been avoided if she had been supported while caring for her husband at home.

She said: “The lack of adequate social care support before the pandemic started was a real issue and because of a lack of care during the pandemic he spent much more time in hospital than should have been necessary.

“Families like mine continue to find things difficult. I’m worried about the lack of support for people’s conditions, as well as for their loved ones at home.”

Caroline Abrahams (pictured), CSA co-chairwoman and charity director at Age UK, said some older people rejected care for fear of the virus being brought into their home, while others received an “erratic or reduced” service due to staffing shortages.

She said there are concerns over how quickly older people will agree to have services resume if they refused them during the pandemic, and over eligibility amid increasing levels of need.

She said: “Our new survey shows how a lack of social care during the pandemic has diminished the lives of many older and disabled people, and their unpaid carers, and put their health at risk.

“This has piled further pressure on the NHS when this was the last thing our over-stretched health services needed.

“As we start to imagine a world beyond Covid-19 it is vital that the Government extends its pandemic funding for care services and follows through on its pledge to bring forward reform proposals to fix social care, once and for all.”

Jackie O’Sullivan, CSA co-chairwoman, and director of communication, advocacy and activism at Mencap, said many disabled adults saw their support stripped away when they needed it most.

She added: “Families, who rely on complicated and precarious support systems as it is, have borne the brunt – stepping in to compensate for what has been removed.

“And many now lack the energy to fight further cuts to care packages.

“They report that relationships have broken down, with awful consequences.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Sky News.