Adult social care being stretched to dangerous limits

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

The current situation and status of adult social care is under ‘stress and strain’, according to Andrea Sutcliffe, the chief inspector of Adult Social Care at CQC. In her damning critique of the care sector in England, she highlighted how budget cuts had put the system under intense pressure, with carers being demoralised by long hours and low pay. Ms Sutcliffe’s comments come in the wake of new figures, which reveal that more than 150 allegations of abuse against the frail and elderly are being lodged daily, painting a grim picture of the current status of adult social care.

Such strain on carers ’potentially means that they may leave’ but more importantly ‘also may mean that they end up being the sort of care worker you wouldn’t want them to be, because the system around them isn’t supportive’.

Such stress and strain is not going to go away either, due to a combination ‘of all sorts of factors – the increased number of people who need care and support, the increased complexity of their needs’. Ms Sutcliffe also explained that local authorities and clinical commissioning groups, which fund care, need to understand, when compared to ‘what the true cost of care is, what true quality looks like’.

Data suggests that 30,000 allegations of misconduct have been filed involving people using social care, ranging from sexual, emotional and violent abuse to financial fraud, since the beginning of this year. A past study of previous years showed that 57% of allegations in care homes identified a professional carer as the abuser.

According to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the adult social care budget has been cut by almost a third since 2011 to £4.6bn. During the same period, the rate at which allegations have been made has doubled.

Figures from the Carers Trust meanwhile suggest many non-professional carers struggle to take time off, with 68% failing to get a break this year and a third saying they had not even had a full day off.

With new budget cuts being implemented, and care home workers struggling to cover workloads intended for more people, there is no reason to hope that such figures will go down in the near future.

However, this kind of “abuse and neglect are completely unacceptable at all times”. A Department of Health spokesman said “Treating someone with dignity and compassion doesn’t cost anything. We’re making sure we recruit people with the right values and skills by introducing a ‘fit and proper person’ test for directors and a care certificate for front-line staff.” In addition, to further prevent this kind of treatment, “The CQC’s new tougher inspection regime will also help to make sure that if abuse occurs, it’s caught quickly and dealt with.”

In response to this statement, Clare Pelham, CEO of Leonard Cheshire Disability, the country’s leading disability charity, stated “The Department of Health is wrong to say ‘treating someone with dignity and compassion doesn’t cost anything’; if there is only sufficient funding for a 15-minute care visit, it is simply impossible in many cases to treat someone with dignity and compassion.”

“And it’s wrong to blame the care worker for that. All they can do is their best in an impossible situation. Many already work unpaid for extra time to make good the care they know is rushed and inadequate for the disabled or older person.”

It is clear from this analysis that adult social care workers need more support in order to give the quality of care and service that is expected by CQC, local authorities, CCG’s and service users themselves.

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