On 29th May BBC One’s Panorama programme aired the first of a two-part feature on the crisis in the social care sector. The footage was filmed in our home county of Somerset over 12 months and focused on four families who were caring for their loved ones; as well as Somerset County Council who, like local authorities everywhere, are coping with budget cuts from central Government.
The problems caused by the UK’s ageing population have been known for many years and the programme emphasised that Somerset has an above-average ageing population, which will escalate over the next few years. Therefore the call is for Government to address this matter now with adequate funding and support.
The lack of care workers in the community is also well known, with domiciliary and supported living providers stretched to capacity without enough staff to service the care packages they are asked to provide. Care companies are struggling to balance the growing costs of provision with the funding they receive from social services, and have been left with vacant beds in care homes and care packages that they are unable to support in the community. The effects of this have been seen in recent months as two large community care businesses, Allied Healthcare (November 2018) and Four Seasons Health Care (April 2019), entered administration.
Meanwhile, family and friends who are providing care for their loved ones are juggling their immediate family life with work, which is subsequently impacting upon their own mental and physical health.
Whilst the Government is trying to address the care skills shortage through various Skills for Care initiatives and Apprenticeships for the role of the Nursing Associate, the sector continues to wait for the Green Paper whilst Government deals with Brexit.
So where are we now?
Emergency one-off funding assisted the care sector in Autumn 2018 as councils started to place care packages across the care settings, including into care homes. However inadequate care funding continued, with providers either picking up the cost or moving out of social care provision entirely.
The focus on care in current and later life needs to become of higher importance to the general public, with encouragement to save for the future. However, this may be too late for the next generation of elderly people who are now in their 50s and 60s, as they are already funding their older relatives which will impact upon the money they have left for their own later life. Meanwhile, younger generations are facing their own financial pressures.
We are hopeful that this Panorama programme, and the second part next week focusing on ‘Who Pays’, will help the general public to understand the adult social services sector and the pressures it faces, which will impact us all. The Guardian newspaper today referred to the social care sector as ‘a slow-motion car crash’. Social care needs to be a key concern to everyone and should be put on a level footing with Health care.
The second part of this programme, ‘Who Pays?’ is on BBC One on 5th June at 9pm.
Should you wish to discuss Later Life Planning, contact Louise Osborne, Partner at Albert Goodman and accredited by the Society for Later Life Advisers (SOLLA) on 01934 642222.