The publication, CCN’s fifth and final Spotlight of the year, aims to showcase how the network’s member councils have stepped up in what has been a challenging year in adult social care with demand continuing to soar and inflation rising to a 40-year high – impacting on councils’ and care providers’ budgets.
The network’s County Spotlight publication sets out the challenges faced by county local authorities in delivering social care, but also shines a light on their innovative and transformative work carried out by its member councils, including successful campaigns to recruit and retain staff, using cutting-edge technology, and working with health partners to reduce demand.
Local authorities in England saw 1.97m requests from people for social care services in 2021-22 – which is an average of 5,402 requests a day for each council. This is a rise of 65,000 individuals compared with pre-pandemic levels in 2020. As we head into the winter period, councils say demand shows no sign of abating.
The analysis by the County Councils Network (CCN) shows 55,000 (85%) of the rise in new requests came from people living in England’s county and rural areas. Councils in these areas say care provision is under significant pressure heading into the winter period where services are at their most stretched.
The CCN says health and social care services face a perfect storm of post-pandemic demand for care services, including requests for short-term care packages and community care, care providers closing down, and wider pressure on the NHS.
It comes as these councils await to find details of how they can spend £2.3bn of additional funding next year announced by Chancellor for care services in the Autumn Budget, with the government expected to place conditions on how councils spend some of the money to speed up hospital discharge and free up bed capacity to reduce the NHS backlog.
Latest data shows that the number of beds occupied by people fit to be discharged from hospital is a quarter higher than last December – and many of these individuals will be waiting a social care package or bed in their community.
With demand showing no sign of abating and with inflation still running high, council leaders say they are bracing themselves for a challenging winter. This is despite the government providing extra funding for local authorities to address social care pressures and improve hospital discharges.
CCN say the government should ‘minimise’ the conditions placed on how councils spend this additional funding next year to allow councils to work most effectively with local NHS partners.
The figures are released in a new report, published today by the CCN. The network’s County Spotlight publication sets out the challenges faced by county local authorities in delivering social care, but also shines a light on their innovative and transformative work carried out by its member councils, including successful campaigns to recruit and retain staff, using cutting-edge technology, and working with health partners to reduce demand.
This good work has been done despite services remaining under strain and yearly rises in demand for care services, which has forced councils to tighten their eligibility for services. Of the 1.97m requests for care nationally last year, 1.087m requests did not result in a service being provided – some 55% of all cases. The proportion not receiving a service is higher in county and rural areas – 58% of all requests.
However, nationally 662,615 people received short-term services – 25,910 more than in 2019-20. These include short-term care packages or reablement services. Those going into residential or nursing care has declined – dropping from 33,790 in 2019-20 to 31,440 in 2021-22.
Cllr Martin Tett, Adult Social Care Spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said:
“The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement provided vital funding for local authorities, but the scale of the challenge facing the health and social care system means that were still facing one of our toughest winters yet.
“Figures show that demand for social care services continues to rise – with the number of requests almost totalling two million. Add in a further decline of social care beds this year, inflationary cost pressures, and longer hospital discharge times and you have a perfect storm of pressures on the system.
“We will be doing all we can, working in close collaboration with our health partners, to ensure that pressure on local health systems are kept to a minimum and that people are not waiting too long for a care package. The delay to social care reforms, and the additional funding provided by the Chancellor, gives us a fighting chance, but there is no doubt significant challenges remain.
“With new reporting requirements and grant conditions in relation to the new adult social care grant and the Better Care Fund expected, we would urge the government to minimise conditions to ensure this funding can be used flexibility to meet the most acute pressures across both social care and the health service.
“Despite all these challenges however, county local authorities have a track record in delivery and innovation when it comes to adult social care. As today’s report shows, there are numerous examples of best practice across the country where county authorities are working hard to improve the lives of those in care and ease workforce and wider health pressures.”
Notes to editor