As the National Living Wage comes into force, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has welcomed the move, which will help to recognise and improve pay for care workers looking after some of our most vulnerable residents. However, questions remain about the sustainability of services that are struggling with increasing demand, rising costs and inadequate government funding.
The current adult social care workforce is estimated to be 1.5 million, but to account for rising demand for services, it is predicted that another 700,000 people will need to be recruited to the sector by 2025 to make sure that care remains safe and sustainable. More needs to be done to attract and retain staff in this demanding yet hugely rewarding area of work, and paying people appropriately for the work they do is one part of this.
However, funding cuts and increased demand mean that there is already significant pressure on social care funds, which has led to 400,000 fewer people receiving social care than five years ago. The sector is facing a number of challenges, including:
· A 16 per cent increase (1.6 million people) in those with a limiting long-term illness between 2001 and 2015
· The number of people aged over 85 is expected to more than double from 1.3 million to 2.9 million in the next 20 years
· Adult social services budgets have been cut by £4.6 billion, or 31 per cent, in the last 5 years
· The welcome introduction of the National Living Wage is expected to cost the system at least £1.6 billion a year by 2020
· New Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards will cost councils at least £176 million per year
From this year, social care authorities will be able to add a 2 per cent precept to council tax bills to support social care services. This recognition of the need to better fund adult social care was well received, however even if every social care authority used the full precept, there would still be a minimum funding gap of £1.4 billion from April – and even more the following year. ADASS President Ray James highlighted to MPs on the Health Select Committee in March that wealthier areas raise more money through council tax than more deprived areas, and will therefore benefit more. He also informed the Committee: “There is a very strong correlation between increased social care demand and high levels of deprivation. One of the distribution challenges with the precept is that it raises least money in areas of greatest need.”
ADASS has called for £700 million per year of additional adult social care funding due to be introduced in 2019/20 to be brought forward to help councils cope with these challenges and continue to safely carry out their statutory responsibilities towards residents.
ADASS President, Ray James, said:
“Every minute of every day, frontline workers are making a distinctive, valued and personal contribution to the lives of over a million people, as well as their families and carers. They deserve to be trained, valued and paid in a way consistent with the quality of service we rightly expect of them, so the introduction of the National Living Wage is very welcome.
“However, this is expected to cost the system at least £1.6 billion a year by 2020. We are already in a situation where more people are living longer, with increasingly complex needs, while adult social care budgets have been cut by 31 per cent in the last five years.
“The Government has promised more money but it is too little and too late. Unless the Government addresses the chronic underfunding of adult social care – and quickly – many services will be at significant risk over the next couple of years, with worrying consequences not only for the NHS, but most of all for older and disabled people, their families and carers.”