A damning new survey by Community Care Magazine, with support from the Care and Support Alliance, sheds further light on England’s threadbare adult social care system and how cuts have affected people in desperate need of care and support.
The survey of 469 social workers from across England reveals that many elderly and disabled care users are denied adequate support, with the majority of respondents believing that care cuts have resulted in an unfair and unsafe system.
One social worker said: “I had to reduce the care package for three brothers who live together. Each has either a mental health problem, physical or learning disability.
“They had a substantial care package for 15 years. It kept them safe from financial abuse and enabled them to live in the community.
“After reducing the care package two of them went into residential care and died. The other was admitted to hospital with dehydration and hypothermia.”
More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) said they are expected to reduce people’s care packages, with only 28% believing this to be ‘fair and safe’.
Around a third (37%) said they felt unable to provide people with the care they need, and when having to explain to families why support for their loved-ones had been cut, only 38% felt supported in doing so.
Many social workers also felt that decisions on people’s care needs have been taken out of their hands, as local authorities struggle to balance dwindling funds. Less than half of those surveyed (43%) felt decisions about a person’s care and support had taken account of their professional opinions.
“The council has decided they will no longer fund medication or lunchtime calls”, one social worker said. “These reductions are being agreed at a panel without social work recommendations.”
Another added: “As a social worker you come into the profession because you want to help people improve their quality of life, but it feels like you are becoming increasingly limited in your ability to do that and there is an ever-growing number of hoops to jump through.”
Commenting on the findings of the survey, Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK and co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance said: “This is the first time that England’s social workers have spoken out in such numbers, blowing the whistle on just what a drastic state of decline social care is now in.
“The social workers’ descriptions of what the cuts mean in practice for disabled people, those with mental health problems and older people make for tough reading and it is impossible not to be angered and saddened by them.”
“It is though important to remember that while social care is a service administered by local authorities, ‘the buck stops with Ministers’ and the suffering that vulnerable people are experiencing today is the direct result of the decisions successive governments have made to underfund social care.”
She added: “The extra £2 billion this Government has pledged will certainly help but the funding gap is far larger, so the situation is certain to worsen without further action.”
Matthew Egan, social care officer at Unison, said: “Social workers and other staff should be able to make care assessments based on their professional judgement and not be restricted by dwindling budgets.
“The huge cuts ministers have made to council budgets have had devastating consequences for the provision of care to those people in need.
“We see people effectively being abandoned and let down. It is not fair on social workers and it’s certainly not fair on care users.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “We know social workers do incredible work and we want to make sure that everyone, especially older and vulnerable people, receive compassionate care.
“That is why we have enshrined in law in the Care Act that local authorities must assess and meet the needs of people in their area.
“We have provided an additional £2 billion for social care and have committed to consult on the future of social care to ensure sustainability in the long term.”