This report was initiated by Portsmouth Labour for use of the Portsmouth South MP, local councillors and Labour Party members concerned about the critical issues facing social care. The intention was to initiate a listening exercise and share results nationally with relevant ministers. The report will be used to inform lobbying both locally and nationally to tackle the crisis in social care.
Cuts in local government funding over the past decade have had a devastating impact on social care services across the board. There is no magic formula to resolve problems locally without national action. The government has announced £5.4 billion of additional funding to reform adult social care, to be funded by the new Health and Social Care Levy. At least £500 million from this package will fund investment in the skills, qualifications and wellbeing of the care workforce. However reaction has been largely negative. A range of industry groups have said the funding is ‘nowhere near enough’.
However, there are ways in which we can acknowledge the problems associated with the social care crisis, listen to people’s experiences and seek ways to cooperate over the best local solutions in very challenging circumstances.
Social care covers care and support for people because of age and disability, but also includes mental health, addictions, domestic violence, and we welcome and thank all those who have contributed to this local review from these different perspectives.
Our online survey enabled a variety of experiences to be shared by service users, carers, care pro- viders and people working in social care. Click here to view the survey. Two Round Table meetings were held in early September, one for care providers, and one for service users and carers. There was a good breadth of representation across independent and voluntary sector care providers, and a range of perspectives from trade unionists to users of direct payments. Four more detailed submissions were taken which covered a range of issues relating to social care, including personal experiences.
Some respondents contributed views on the benefits system and mental health services, both of which are closely linked to social care support, but outside the scope of this review which focuses on the provision and funding of adult social care by the local authority.
The following key concerns were identified through this listening exercise:
- Experience of lack of communication between health and social care services 2. Lengthy waiting list for social care assessments
- Reductions in direct payments and increased charges for social care support
- Inadequate funding for ‘care businesses’, insurance costs rising, lack of support from banks
- Significant impact on staffing levels from low pay, Brexit, Covid, and recent vaccination legislation
The Portsmouth Pensioners Association estimate that since 2015, £160m has been removed from Portsmouth’s Adult Social Care budget as part of government-imposed austerity measures. The remaining budget is unable to meet the needs of older and disabled citizens requiring help. In the last 6 years, 1,500 Portsmouth people considered to be in the medium to lower needs group have had their social care removed in order to make budget savings. This generally means people not yet in need of essential personal care (eating, washing, dressing etc), but who would benefit from support with shopping, housework or social activities to maintain their independence and quality of life.
The Hampshire Care Association surveyed their members and concluded that the Covid-19 pandemic has hit adult social care providers with a toxic mix of increased costs combined with a reduction in income. Financial support, while welcome, has not always made up the difference. Concerns over the future sustainability of services skyrocketed and there are growing signs of a drop in lender confidence.
However the response from many national and local interests has shown that the additional resources allocated are not sufficient to alleviate the current crisis in social care. The main concerns are:
- Money from the national insurance levy will go first to clear the NHS backlog. Experts say this could take a decade, meaning there could be no new money in the system until at least
- There is no new cash or any plan to improve pay and conditions for staff and nothing to alleviate the challenges faced by unpaid carers.
- The care cap of £86,000 will still mean many people have to sell their home
The government has recently recognised that significant additional resources are needed to support the delivery of adult social care services with its Build Back Better plan for health and social care.
The continuing severe impact on older people, working age adults with disabilities, family carers, the social care workforce and social care providers has been highlighted in numerous reports.
In current circumstances there is still potential for social care to weave a web of relationships and support in our communities, connecting council services, independent providers, trades unions, voluntary and community organisations, families and local community networks. The council can play a leading role by providing support to and working alongside local people and organisations to share new ideas and bring new energy to their life by organizing and funding social care in a different way.
In response to the key findings of this consultation, pressure needs to be brought to bear on the government through any and all channels available to agree cross-party plans to:
- ensure there are no further cuts to council social care budgets
- increase funding for Adult Social Care through local authorities
- improve morale among care workers by increasing resources to alleviate problems of staff shortages and enable them to provide the quality and level of care needed
Locally actions should be taken by the council to:
- Review the implementation of the Ethical Care and Residential Care Charter agreed by the council in July 2019
- Send a strong signal of support to older people and those working in the care sector by updating and renewing the Portsmouth Ageing Population Strategy 2010-2020, and work towards Portsmouth becoming recognised as an ‘age- friendly city’.
- Improve the communication exchange between the council and care providers through re- establishing the providers network meetings.
- Investigate ways of delivering social care in a more collaborative way by involving care service user representatives, carer support and interest groups, voluntary and community organisations, care providers, trade unions and care workers.
- Request officers to provide a bi-annual report to councillors on the scope and outcomes from these communication channels.