Key social care trends in England in 2021/22 showed signs of a return to the situation before Covid-19, with the number of new requests to local authorities for support increasing, while the number of people receiving publicly funded care fell.
That’s according to analysis from The King’s Fund Social care 360 report, which says the above trends had been the case until 2020/21 but then, due to Covid-19, the number of new requests from older people fell sharply.
The most likely reason for this long-term trend of falling receipt of long-term care, despite increasing demand, is the fall in local authority spending power.
There are, however, other noticeable effects of Covid-19 that have not yet stabilised. The most dramatic effect is in workforce vacancies. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the vacancy rate in adult social care was a reverse mirror of the rate of unemployment in the wider economy. When unemployment was low, social care vacancies were high, and vice versa.
Though the trend was in the same direction in 2021/22, social care vacancies increased by far more than the overall unemployment rate declined. This change explains the current workforce crisis in adult social care.
Another continuing effect is in local authority expenditure on social care. The long-term trend was a fall in real-terms spending between 2010/11 and 2014/15, followed by consistently above-inflation increases to 2019/20. Here again the trend remained the same but the increase in spending accelerated sharply in both 2020/21 and 2021/22.
However, some local authority expenditure in these years was on support for the social care sector to deal with Covid-19 rather than on individuals’ care so the years are not directly comparable.
One other change is the ‘dog that did not bark’. In last year’s Social care 360, The King’s Fund described the government’s announcement of a programme of reform for social care that would have meant more people were eligible for publicly funded social care as well as introducing a cap on lifetime social care costs.