Social care services have risen to the unprecedented challenges caused by coronavirus and continue to do so. The 1.6 million-strong workforce, supported by more than a million unpaid carers, have helped keep those who use these vital services safe and well during this extraordinary crisis.
Two recently published authoritative reports have shone the spotlight on the role of social care during the pandemic. The first part of the annual Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) budget survey, which focuses on the COVID-19 response, showed encouraging signs that prior to the outbreak there were fewer care providers handing back contracts or closing, compared to the same period last year. However, the extra costs to providers caused by the virus, including personal protective equipment and staffing, show the serious impact this has had. Despite councils doing all they can to support providers in their areas, these pressures remain and our own commissioned research shows providers could face up to £6.6bn of extra costs by the end of September this year.
The ADASS survey also highlights how the level of unmet need has increased. It was already building up before coronavirus emerged. This must be tackled, both in the immediate and long-term future, to make sure people live the lives they want to lead.
The National Audit Office report on how prepared health and social care was for the pandemic also contributes to the wider debate on what lessons should be learned from this entire experience.
Social care deserves parity of esteem with the NHS and the coronavirus crisis has given renewed impetus to, and understanding of, the vital relationship between health and care, which needs to be built on for the future. This requires effective joint working between the two, which is happening in many places across the country and should be encouraged by Government and NHS England. Social care services are best delivered at the local level, as part of the vital contribution of local government in supporting people’s health and wellbeing.
We are working closely with the Government’s National COVID-19 Social Care Support Taskforce, as part of its action plan for the sector, while also continuing to call for a long-term, sustainable funding solution beyond the pandemic.
Cllr James Jamieson is chairman of the Local Government Association