Health & Lifestyle

Public satisfaction with social care hits all-time low as shock report reveals the elderly are waiting six months to get essential care

Public satisfaction with social care has hit an all-time low with the elderly now routinely forced to wait months for essential care, damning new figures show.

More than half of Britons (57 per cent) say they are ‘quite’ or ‘very’ dissatisfied with social care, with only 13 per cent ‘quite’ or ‘very’ satisfied.

The findings, from the gold-standard British Social Attitudes survey of more than 3,000 people, reveal a fall in satisfaction from 14 per cent the previous year.

Sentiment is also down from 30 per cent in 2012 when the question was first asked, albeit in a slightly different form.

It comes as a separate study shows elderly people in Bath and North East Somerset are being made to wait an average of 149 days (about five months) for care.

Data supplied by 85 councils to the Department of Health and Social Care show the average wait is 50 days, while 25 have average waits of two month or more and only three report waits of less than ten days.

Ministers requested councils provide the total time from a person’s first request to be assessed for eligibility, through to the service beginning.

The service could be a care package, a direct payment for their care, or other support.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘We routinely hear from older people and their families who are in despair because of their lengthy wait for a care assessment or services.

‘Waits of several months are not unusual, unfortunately, though there seems to be a pronounced postcode lottery, reinforcing the sense of unfairness.’

The waiting time data, obtained by the Health Service Journal under Freedom of Information laws, cover January to March last year and do not include anyone who is turned down.

The figures are not routinely collected or published and – unlike for healthcare – there are no waiting time targets or standard ways or recording them.

The BSA survey, published by the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund think tanks, found people who had used or had contact with social care services in the previous 12 months had higher dissatisfaction (64 per cent) to those who had not (49 per cent).

The leading reason for dissatisfaction was inadequate pay, working conditions and training for social care workers (57 per cent), followed by people not getting the social care they need (56 per cent), and not enough support for unpaid carers (49 per cent).

Simon Bottery, senior fellow in social care at The King’s Fund, said the results are ‘awful’ but ‘sadly unsurprising’.

He added: ‘For many years governments have taken too little action on social care and this is now seriously affecting those who draw on services, the families who support them and the staff who work in the sector.

‘The results demonstrate the need for immediate action to stabilise the social care system, backed by long-term reform and investment.

‘The next government must take a strong step forward and prioritise social care.’

New findings from the British Social Attitudes survey, published by the Nuffield Trust and The King¿s Fund, show that public satisfaction with social care services has dropped to just 13 per cent, the lowest level ever recorded. The survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) in September and October 2023, is seen as a gold standard measure of public attitudes in Britain

New findings from the British Social Attitudes survey, published by the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund, show that public satisfaction with social care services has dropped to just 13 per cent, the lowest level ever recorded. The survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) in September and October 2023, is seen as a gold standard measure of public attitudes in Britain 

Cyril Lobont, researcher at the Nuffield Trust, said: ‘The results make it clear that too many people with care needs and their families are still struggling to access a reasonable level of support.

‘Politicians of all parties need to prioritise reversing this record low satisfaction.

‘What is left of the delayed reform plans at present would barely stabilise the sector, let alone deliver the improvement so desperately needed.’

The most recent survey was carried out in September and October last year (2023) and included 3,374 people across England, Scotland and Wales.

Social care is a devolved matter for governments in Scotland and Wales.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We want everyone who needs it to have access to high-quality care, which is why we are investing up to £700million on a major transformation of the adult social care system, including harnessing technology and adapting people’s homes to allow them to live independently.

‘We are reforming social care careers with training to improve retention and, for the first time ever, a clear career path and a new accredited qualification to give the profession the recognition it rightly deserves.

‘We have also made available up to £8.6billion in additional funding over two financial years to support adult social care and discharge.’

Asked about having one of the longest waits for care (89 days), an East Sussex County Council spokesperson said: ‘It is not possible to fairly compare local authorities with each other because of the different ways the data is recorded.

‘Like all local authorities responsible for adult social care, we have been affected by increased demand for services in recent years, alongside reductions in government funding and increasing costs.’


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