Adult social services are facing a deluge of requests for care and support from older people as society opens up after Covid-19, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. 

A survey of local councils responsible for social services has found they face sharply rising numbers of people coming forward for help. Directors fear that people will have to wait longer for less care and support unless the Government steps in with more funding and launches its long-awaited social care reforms.    

Stephen Chandler, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, which carried out the survey, said: “Some of the numbers we are seeing are phenomenal. The trends are unsustainable and show why the Government must publish its plans for social care as a matter of urgency.

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“Our findings demonstrate very starkly that the crisis in social care is not just a crisis in the way we support older people. Half our spending is on help for adults of working age.”  

The ADASS survey was carried out in March and April and was completed by more than 90 directors, almost two-thirds of the total. They were asked how need for care and support compared with last November, less than six months previously. Of those who responded:

  • 69% said more people were being referred for support from the community, almost half of them reporting a rise of more than 10% over the six months
  • 68% said more people were presenting with mental health issues
  • 57% said more people with care and support needs were seeking help for domestic abuse or safeguarding
  • 35% said they were seeing more rough sleepers needing support.

The findings point to the strain that family carers have been under during the pandemic. Of responding directors, 67% said they were seeing more people seeking help because of breakdown in carer arrangements – 27% reporting a rise of more than 10%.  

Interdependence of health and social care

The survey also shows the inter-dependence of social care and the NHS in the wider health and care system. Of responding directors, 48% said they were being asked to support more people awaiting admission to hospital and 75% said they were dealing with more people being discharged and asking for help from their local council – 55% reporting a rise of more than 10% in numbers of requests following discharge over the six months.  

In response to the survey, Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “The results of the ADASS survey are further evidence that the government needs to take action on social care immediately. The RCP supports the call for this to begin before the summer parliamentary recess next month.

“While support for care homes has been talked about a lot over the past year, little has been said about the crucial support social care provides for working age adults. This survey shows social care has been a safety net for thousands of people during the pandemic.

“If the government is to ‘level up’ and improve everyday life across the country, it needs to start by making sure the support people need to live fulfilling, healthy lives is in place.”

ADASS is calling on the Government to start to outline its promised plans for social care reform before the summer parliamentary recess next month. It wants a 10-year plan for social care, in parallel with that for the NHS, and a guarantee of medium-term funding to enable social care to deal with rising need for care and support while reform is put in place.