Over recent months there has been a growing consensus that social care provision is in a state of crisis, and that the current settlement between social care and the NHS is not fit for purpose.
It has been reported that since 2010 a total of £4.6 billion has been cut from council social services departments. Over the same time period the number of people to receive social care dropped by 24%.
Even more dramatic cuts have been seen in sensory support services. Over the last year alone there was an 11.4% reduction in the number of people with sensory impairments receiving social care.
While fewer people are receiving social care, as a result of spending reductions, more and more people are using the NHS. This unrelenting rise in demand is stretching the NHS to breaking point.
Rising demand for health and social care services is caused, in part, by the fact that we have an ageing population, and more people are living longer with care and support needs. This is something to celebrate, and represents a success for our health service. However, it also brings its own unique set of challenges.
This raises the question, how can we as a society provide high quality care and support at a time of constrained public spending and rising demand?
It is not a new question. Indeed it is one that successive governments have wrestled with, all of who so far have fallen short of finding an answer.
This is why we at Sense are supporting calls for a cross party review of health and social care. Without urgent action, stories of the NHS and social care in crisis, long waiting times and people getting stuck in hospital because no social care is available will continue and people will suffer as a result.
We believe that now is the time for bold thinking, to ensure that funding for social care is put on a sustainable footing.
Without decisive action now, the future for social care looks bleak. The Local Government Association (LGA) has forecast that by 2020 the sector will have accrued a deficit of almost £2.6 billion.
These financial woes mean that even fewer people will benefit from social care services. The charity Age UK has reported that there are over 1.2 million older people who do not receive the social care they need. While Sense has calculated that there are at least 108,000 adults with learning disabilities who live with unmet care and support needs. These figures will get worse unless action is taken.
Faced with this reality, doing nothing is not an option.
Fair and sustainable funding
Social care needs a fair and sustainable funding settlement, this much is clear. A properly resourced social care sector will mean that more older and disabled people will have access to vital support services. It will mean better access to preventative, community care and keep people from avoidable hospital admissions.
For many older and disabled people that Sense supports, social care is an essential part of their life, which allows them to live independently, with dignity, as active members of their community.
Social care can provide high quality support to people who need it, and support the NHS by keeping people well at home and in their communities.
These are facts that we in the sector have known for a long time. What we need now is decisive action from the government, to make these aspirations a reality.
By Jonathan Holmes (Policy Advisor of Health and Social Care at Sense) – www.sense.org.uk