THE LONG READ: Time to act over the crisis in social care

Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) is feeling the squeeze over adult social care, as the national audit office released an in-depth report into the growing adult social care crisis unfurling across the UK last week.
Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) is feeling the squeeze over adult social care, as the national audit office released an in-depth report into the growing adult social care crisis unfurling across the UK last week.

Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) is  feeling the squeeze over adult social care, as the national audit office released an in-depth report into the growing adult social care crisis  unfurling across the UK last week.

Every family is affected by the challenges of our ageing society. It is the Bucks Herald view The government must act now to build health and care provision fit for all.

What’s striking is the consensus that there is no long-term plan for health and adult social care and that the result is a growing care deficit. Our health and care services are facing a perfect storm; the country’s population is getting older and the number of care workers is insufficient to meet future demand.

The last national plan was rolled out in 2009, and has not been updated since, despite changes to social care legislation.

A care workforce that is suitably planned, supported and resourced would improve the quality of care, thereby improving the experience and safety of users, and in addition alleviate pressures on the health service.

The Department of Health & Social Care must create a long term plan for health and adult social care and local authorites must also act to create a plan in harmony with the national vision.

The reports main findings were:

-Turnover and vacancy rates across the social care workforce are high.

-Growth in the number of jobs has fallen behind growth in demand for care.

- Providers and commissioners of care have raised concerns that low pay for care workers is contributing to high vacancy and turnover rates.

- The vacancy rate for nurses more than doubled between 2012-13 and 2016-17.

- There is no national workforce strategy for delivering sustainable adult social care, and local authorites like BCC are not taking the lead and implementing their own plans.

The report states: “The one and a half million people working in adult social care in England provide essential support to adults with care needs, yet the care sector is undervalued and its workers poorly rewarded.

“Providers are having increasing difficulty recruiting and retaining workers, and the number of individuals with some level of unmet care needs is increasing.”

After the announcement of the Budget, Council Leader Martin Tett said: “there is currently £9.8m in additional pressure on services to vulnerable people across the county - children’s services and adult social care. The additional 3% adult social care precept will provide around £7.6m of this shortfall.

“We, along with every other County Council, are facing severe cost pressures in Adult Social Care and Children’s Services. These pressures are forcing us to increase council tax - something I would really not wish to do, but we just can’t avoid it.

“It’s vitally important that the government sticks to its deadline and brings forward proposals on how social care will be funded, otherwise counties across the county will be under ever-increasing financial risk.”

Lin Hazell from BCC said: “We, along with every other County Council, are facing severe cost pressures in Adult Social Care.

“These pressures are forcing us to increase council tax - something we would really not wish to do but, but since the County Council’s Government support has declined from nearly £61million five years ago to zero for the coming year, we just cannot avoid it.

"However we aim to do the best that we can within the resources available to us. We therefore are trying to focus more on how we can help people to stay independent through; improved re-ablement, early intervention and prevention services.

“We are also constantly looking at ways to improve recruitment and retention of staff working in social care for example by being as flexible as possible about working hours.”