Skip to content
Press release

More people asking for social care support but fewer getting it as demand leaves social care system at crisis point

Rising disability among working-age adults and a growth in the number of people over 65 is putting rising pressure on the adult social care system in England, with more people requesting care but fewer people receiving it.

New analysis from The King’s Fund shows that the proportion of working-age adults approaching local authorities for support has risen by 4 per cent – over 23,000 people – since 2015/16. At the same time, England’s increasing older population is fuelling greater demand for services.

Together, this has led to over 1.8 million requests for adult social care, up 2 per cent since 2015/16. However, nearly 13,000 fewer people are receiving support and real-terms local authority spending on social care is £700 million below what it was in 2010/11. The figures are presented in Social care 360, which brings together, for the first time, analysis of data from all major, publicly available data sources to provide a comprehensive overview of the adult social care system in England.

Successive administrations have pledged to reform social care and a much-anticipated green paper, promised by the current government and expected to set out the pros and cons of the different options for reform, has no release date nearly two years after it was first announced.

The new analysis finds that 18 per cent of working-age people now report a disability, up from 15 per cent in 2010/11. The proportion of disabled working age adults reporting mental health conditions has increased significantly from 24 per cent to 36 per cent in the last 5 years. This rise is mirrored by an increase in the number of working-age adults claiming disability benefits in recent years.

More older people are also approaching their councils for support, fuelled by an increase in the numbers of older people in the population. But the proportion of over-65s getting long-term social care from their local council has fallen by 6 per cent. The authors suggest that this is partly due to a freeze since 2010/11 in the amount of assets people can hold and still be eligible for state-funded care. Unmet need among older people remains high, with 22 per cent saying they needed support but did not get it.

The report identifies a number of other key trends.

  • The amount it costs councils to pay for care per week is increasing. The average per week cost of residential and nursing care for an older person now stands at £615, a real-terms increase of 6.6 per cent since 2015/16.

  • The number of nursing and residential care beds available for people aged over 75 has fallen from 11.3 per 1,000 to 10.1 per 1,000 since 2012.

  • There is a growing staffing crisis in social care, with around 8 per cent of jobs vacant at any one time. There are 1.6 million jobs in social care, up by 275,000 since 2009. But 390,000 staff leave their jobs each year.

  • Fewer people who care for family members are receiving support from their local authority, but more are getting help through the national benefits system.

Despite the huge challenges facing social care, those people able to access care and support services report high levels of satisfaction. In 2017/18, 90 per cent of social care users said they were either extremely or quite satisfied with their care.

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

'This report shows that increasing need among working-age adults, an increasing older population and high levels of existing unmet need are combining to put immense pressure on our care and support system, now and for the future. Yet there is little evidence that the government understands or is willing to act on these trends despite the impact on older and disabled people, their families and carers.

'The social care Green Paper, which still has no release date over two years after it was announced, is an opportunity to set out the fundamental reform we desperately need. But while the green paper is delayed, the government must focus on what it can do to support people now. Putting more money into the system in this autumn’s Spending Review would help people to get the help they need while longer-term reform takes effect.'

Notes to editors

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Rachel Case, Press and Public Affairs Manager at The King’s Fund on 020 7307 2603 or 07584 146 035, or by email: [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 health and care is available to all.

The threshold above which people must meet the full cost of their care has been frozen since 2010/11. Since this date, anyone with assets totalling more than £23,250 has been forced to pay the full cost of their care. Had the savings limit for receiving publicly-funded social care been increased in line with inflation it would now stand £2,811 higher at £26,061.