Social care system 'at the point of crisis' with £2.5bn funding gap predicted
9 February 2018, 14:53
England's social care system is "at the point of crisis" and extra funding is just "a sticking plaster", according to a health think tank.
Simon Bottery, senior fellow for social care at The King's Fund, said the Government "can't put it off any longer".
He told Sky News: "The Government has put a little bit of extra money in, but that really is a sticking plaster."
Local authorities in England increased the amount spent on adult social care in the year 2016/17, compared to the previous year.
It rose by £556m to reach £17.5bn, a 1% increase in real terms, according to NHS Digital.
Gross spending, however, is less than it was in 2009/10, when councils put in around £19bn.
Mr Bottery said: "Without extra money in, we think around £2.5bn is the gap that is going to exist by 2020, without extra money the system is going to get worse and worse.
"Unless we resolve the long term problem, reform the whole system, and make it fairer and clearer for people to understand, this system will just lurch from crisis to crisis."
It is expected that there will be half a million more people aged over 85 in the UK by the year 2025.
The care home population is also projected to grow by somewhere between 14% to 34%.
Keeping pace with the rising demand is an issue expected to be tackled in the Government's green paper on social care, published by this summer.
Currently, those who have assets of more than £23,250 in England and Northern Ireland, £26,500 in Scotland and £30,000 in Wales, pay the full cost of their care.
There are estimated to be around 400,000 fewer people accessing publicly funded social care than in 2010.
Audrey Starkey, a pensioner suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease, is one of them.
She sold her house to help pay for her 24-hour live-in carer privately, in addition to money her late husband had set aside as savings.
Audrey's daughter, Marion Wilcock, says she is hoping that when the funds run out her mother will not be aware.
She said: "My dad worked extremely hard, and we are just yomping through his savings because mum's care costs about £1000 a week.
"So it's just over £50,000 a year.
"What happens when the money runs out? We are not quite sure, but we will face that when we get there."
Marion said she had looked into residential and nursing homes but after visiting a few she had "come out and just sat in the car and cried".
She added: "There are some very good residential care homes but they are all privately funded... The waiting lists for the ones you might be prepared to use, that you think might be acceptable for your mum, is horrendous.
"I know it's really sad but it's dead person's shoes."
There are concerns over the financial state of many care homes, with many being paid less by local authorities than is needed to deliver care.
That situation has led to an "unfair" system where privately paying residents often pay more to subsidise publicly funded ones.
It has also meant that providers are either going out of business or are handing back contracts because they cannot afford to deliver services at local authority rates.
In addition, there are also thousands of unfilled vacancies in the social care sector.
Sue Hills, managing director of Caremark Mid-Sussex and Crawley, a community care provider, said they are constantly trying to recruit more staff.
She said: "I look at emails sometimes and there could be 10 packages of care waiting; 'can you take this package?' 'Mrs X here, Mrs Y there', it's continuous. It literally is.
"If we had the staff we would probably be triple the size. So yeah, we can't meet the need."
Increasingly, local councils are looking to invest in cost saving and alternative social care solutions.
NHS England announced a £1.75m investment in a family-based initiative called Shared Lives to "help more people be cared for in a home, not a hospital".
A number of local authorities are running the scheme, including in Wales.
Maggie Randall was confined to her flat for two years with mobility issues and often suffered from sores and falls.
"I just felt like I was hermit in the flat," she said. "The thought of me going out then, I was afraid.
"The paramedics were my holidays - going down for my hospital appointments they were the only days I was able to go out."
Since moving in with Roger and Pam Parry, two Shared Lives carers in Caerphilly, her district nurse home visits have more or less stopped.
Pam said she does not see the set up as a being like a care home but "as a home".
"Our reason (for doing this) was we have got such a big house, our children had left home, and we didn't want to downsize yet," she said.
"We wanted to generate some income as well as use up all the space. We have got three rooms available, and so we took it from there.
"It's like fostering for adults basically."
Alex Fox, chief executive of Shared Lives Plus, agrees that more money is needed for social care overall but said it is "time to think much more radically about different models".
"People don't become Shared Lives carers to save anybody money," he said. "They do it because they think they can help somebody and they want somebody to live a good life.
"But we also know that Shared Lives is lower cost than traditional models so for people with learning disabilities, for instance, it is about £26,000 a year lower cost.
"So that is a significant saving that could be made to the NHS and councils."