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Press release

Lack of government action leaves social care struggling

Adult social care support continues to stagnate following a lack of action to reform the sector by successive governments, says The King’s Fund following the publication of its annual social care report. 

Social Care 360 highlights that adult requests for social care have hit a record high of two million and that across the sector, the key measures all point towards a social care system that is under intense pressure. The trends for 2022/23 show that:  

  • Financial eligibility continues to tighten, with financial thresholds for help with the costs of care not having changed since 2010/11. 

  • The cost to local authorities of purchasing care continues to increase faster than inflation – since 2015/16, the average weekly fee for working-age adults increased from £1,400 to £1,540, the average weekly fee paid for older people increased from £670 to £840, and the average hourly rate for home care increased from £17.50 to £20.60 (in real terms – taking inflation into account). 

  • The social care workforce vacancy rate is still at its second highest-ever level, despite the arrival of around 70,000 overseas workers. 

  • There are approximately 19,000 fewer unpaid carers receiving direct support than in 2015/16, and 21,000 fewer people receiving respite care, over the same period. 

The authors note that while the latest data does show a slight increase in the number of adults receiving publicly funded social care support compared to 2021/22, this upturn is likely largely due to a ‘correction’ after the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic. Compared to 2015/16 there are still 11% more people asking for support and 2% fewer people receiving it.  

Equally, although the number of social care vacancies fell from an historic high of 165,000 in 2021/22 to 152,000 in 2022/23, this was driven by a sharp increase in the number of overseas staff recruited to work in adult social care. Since then, the government have announced a tightening of the rules affecting overseas care workers meaning they will not be allowed to bring dependents with them to the UK.  

The King’s Fund argues that, if the next government wants to ‘fix’ social care it will need to increase funding to enable care providers to attract, retain and train staff and implement reforms to make the system fairer and improve quality and outcomes for the users of services and their carers. 

Simon Bottery, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund and lead author said:  

‘For decades social care reform has been promised by governments but consistently dodged or delayed.  The latest figures make clear that the sector is showing little sign of improvement, leaving thousands of people without the support they need.  

' The latest figures make clear that the sector is showing little sign of improvement, leaving thousands of people without the support they need.  

‘There are severe financial pressures on local authorities, who fund adult social care, and no sign that national government will step in to help. Nor is there a credible longer-term plan to recruit and retain the staff needed.   

‘At a time when adult social care has never faced more profound problems, with record numbers of people requesting support, this is surely the time for the next government, whatever colour it may be, to make social care a priority.’ 

Notes to editors

For further information, or to request an interview, please contact The King's Fund media team on 020 7307 2585 or [email protected].  

The King’s Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.

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Social care 360

Explore the key trends in adult social care.

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