Support for unpaid carers and Carers Week 2021 - House of Commons, 22 July 2021

COVID-19 has put adult social care firmly in the public, political and media spotlight. This emergency has highlighted the essential value of social care to the wider public and this interest needs to be harnessed in the debate about the future of care and support. Long-term reform is urgently needed and we are calling on the Government to set out its thinking before the summer recess.


Key messages

  • Years of significant underfunding coupled with rising demand and costs for care and support have combined to push adult social care services to breaking point. These pressures have only been exacerbated by COVID-19.
  • Over the past decade, adult social care cost pressures have increased by £8.5 billion and total funding has increased by £2.4 billion. This has meant a gap of £6.1 billion needed to be managed. Of this, £4.1 billion was managed through savings to the service, and £2 billion was managed through funding diverted from other services by cutting them faster than otherwise would have been so that councils could fund adult social care.
  • The adult social care system could not survive without the contribution of unpaid carers who provide vital support for thousands of people every day. We know caring can place a real strain on individuals – emotionally, physically and financially. Carers are more likely to suffer depression, anxiety and stress and nearly two-thirds of carers have a long-standing health condition.
  • A recent report found that the 2014 Care Act’s strengthening of carers’ rights appears to have been limited by the requirement for local authorities to keep within budget, and as a result these rights have not led to greater access to support for carers. Every part of the care and support sector is under intense pressure due to the pandemic and councils are doing all they can to support unpaid carers and those they care for.
  • Enabling councils to support the increasing numbers of unpaid carers should be a crucial part of a long-term and sustainable funding solution for social care. Additional funding will allow councils to support the increasing number of carers with a range of services including to help address specific needs, such as supporting carers of people with dementia, carers from BAME communities and young carers.
  • In our conference paper Build Back Local, we lay out how the Government can work with councils to reform adult social care through sustainable long-term funding; forming a new deal for the care workforce and building a strong relationship with the NHS and other partners.

Unpaid carers

The adult social care system could not survive without the contribution of unpaid carers who provide vital support for thousands of people every day.

Councils offer a wide range of support to unpaid carers as noted in our publication Supporting Carers. As well as respite at home or short break services, they provide or commission services such as information and advice, carers hubs, discount cards, and direct payments. Additionally, councils commission specific support to young carers.

COVID-19 has further highlighted the incredibly valuable role played by unpaid carers and the difficult circumstances they face. An estimated 4.5 million additional people have become unpaid carers because of the pandemic. This is on top of the 9.1 million unpaid carers already caring before COVID-19 with many juggling their own health and wellbeing issues and employment.

Enabling councils to support the increasing numbers of unpaid carers should be a crucial part of a long-term and sustainable funding solution for social care. Additional funding will allow councils to support the increasing number of carers with a range of services including to help address specific needs, such as supporting carers of people with dementia, carers from BAME communities and young carers.

Caring can place a real strain on individuals – emotionally, physically and financially. Carers are more likely to suffer depression, anxiety and stress and nearly two-thirds of carers have a long-standing health condition. The impact is often exacerbated by carers being unable to find the time for medical check-ups or treatment. Personal relationships can also suffer and carers are more likely to be socially excluded. Recent ONS data has highlighted how unpaid carers have been more affected by the pandemic compared to the general public on aspects of lives including healthcare work, household finances and access to groceries, medication and essentials.

Young carers face particular disadvantages as caring often takes its toll on their education, physical health and wellbeing. They may have also struggled to access remote learning during the pandemic and this will have impacted on their education. Young carers are already more likely to fall behind in education and have lower educational attainment. Their needs should be fully considered in the government’s education recovery package as part of a long-term child centred recovery.

A recent report found that the 2014 Care Act’s strengthening of carers’ rights appears to have been limited by the requirement for local authorities to keep within budget, and as a result these rights have not led to greater access to support for carers. Every part of the care and support sector is under intense pressure due to the pandemic and councils are doing all they can to support carers and those they care for.

Case studies

The LGA interviewed four people to talk about their experiences of the social care system. Videos from each interview will be published on the LGA website shortly. Key takeaways from one of the interviews is highlighted below:

Sally – Carer for a young man with autism and chair of the National coproduction advisory group; The Think Local Act Personal (TLAP); and runs a local charity for people on the autism spectrum. She cared for her mother who had dementia for 10 years and has also helped to establish care to suit her autistic son.

  • “Good social care in an ideal world for me, will be all about the person that's being supported. It was all about bringing back that absolute ethos of choice and control, personal budget, that you have control of.”
  • “One thing I do think needs to happen to, to make the Future of Social Care brighter, is around training of social workers. There is very little training around the concept of personalisation.”
  • “The delay [to social care reform] isn't serving the people of this country. Because as I said before, Social Care touches, everybody at some point in people's lives, whether it's when your parents get older, whether it's that you suddenly have, you know, become disabled you have an illness, it's going to, it will touch you or somebody that you love and care about at some point. And isn't it right, that what this reform makes sure that it's for the people.”

Contact

Laura Johnson, Public Affairs and Campaigns Adviser

[email protected]