England’s residential care system is facing a major problem. A £2.3bn-a-year shortfall has recently been exposed that could put the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable individuals at risk.
According to the Guardian, a government study to determine the true cost of care has revealed a 20% deficit in council funding necessary to care for nearly 200,000 people over the age of 65 in care and nursing homes. Domiciliary care workers are also facing a shortfall of at least £650m annually, with providers believing this figure to be significantly underestimated and potentially over £1bn more.
Experts advise that some councils are paying care homes less than the fair cost of care, which is endangering the safety of residents. In Bracknell Forest, the council’s budget for caring for individuals in a care home falls short by 64%, as around £1,380 is needed per week to cover their costs instead of the £840 they currently receive.
The funding shortfall currently affecting care and nursing homes poses a significant risk to the social care support system. Experts have determined that social care, including services for individuals with learning disabilities and children, requires at least £7bn more in funding every year. Nevertheless, the government’s budget only increased funding by £3.75bn.
Operators are warning that many facilities may be forced to close.
Scores of previously highly rated Dementia Care Homes have been recently rated “inadequate” by inspectors after they found incidents such as; residents’ dressings going unchanged for 20 days, un-sanitised carpets and unexplained wounds. They found this was often a result of staff shortages.
“The evidence is clear; the care sector is being significantly underfunded by local authorities and requires significant investment by central government. The continued funding shortage needs to be tackled head-on ”
– Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England
The Impact on Care Workers
A lack of funding has resulted in low pay for care workers, with an average rate of £9.66 an hour in the independent sector. This has led to a high number of vacancies, with one in 10 posts remaining unfilled. Many care workers have left their positions for better pay opportunities, such as those offered by supermarkets, Amazon, and the NHS. According to CSI Market Intelligence, 247 care homes closed last year, with only 123 new ones opening.
The financial pressure is increasing on all services due to inflation and the rise in national living wage to £10.42 an hour from April.
The Government’s Response
When Jeremy Hunt was chairing the Commons Health and Social Care Select committee, he was quoted saying the UK needed to spend £7bn extra a year, but that it wasn’t going to make much of a difference in terms of improving care quality.
The government has ended up announcing an increase of around £3.75bn a year in the autumn budget, and over £1bn of that will go towards creating more spaces in hospitals so they can discharge patients faster.
Asked about the financial hole, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “This historic funding boost will put the adult social care system on a stronger financial footing and help local authorities address waiting lists, low fee rates, and workforce pressures in the sector.”
The spokesperson added that the government was spending £15m to boost hiring of carers from abroad.
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