Carers enquiries are going unrecorded at local authorities as cash-strapped councils struggle to keep up with rising demand, new research shows.
An ageing population and rising costs are making the need for accurate information more vital than ever, however the number of councils recording queries for adult care dropped by 18 per cent in 2021, according to equity release advice service, Key.
This is despite the amount of people receiving financial support for care rising 15 per cent to 598,494 last year, as a result of the pandemic.
Failing to track enquiries is leaving councils at risk of sudden surges and increased pressure on their already strained budgets.
Will Hale, chief executive officer at Key, said: “With changes to how the country approaches care due to come into force in October 2023, the next 18 months will be critical as councils, consumers and the organisations that support them work to prepare.
“As this progresses, it is worth bearing in mind that 64 per cent of people are keen to receive care in their own homes and there are already a variety of funding options including equity release which support this desire.
“As a country, we need to face the care challenge and make smart sustainable choices that benefit all members of society.”
The pandemic affected how councils dedicated their funds with an ageing population more at risk.
Some 71 per cent of councils across the UK increased care home funding and 71 per cent introduced regular checks for shielding adults after the Covid pandemic.
But six per cent made no changes in the face of rising demand.
Jacqueline Berry, Director at My Care Consultant, added: “Local authorities across the UK have faced increasing demand for later life care services in recent years, something the pandemic has compounded, leaving resources stretched and substantial backlogs of requests for support.”
Sian Simon, 41, a carer based in Gloucestershire, told how difficult it can be to care for someone when facing limited help.
She said: “I have been caring for my mother, who has dementia, for the past year in my home.
“Although she is a self-funder, after she fell and broke her hip, she qualified for six weeks free rehabilitative support.
“She was discharged from hospital into my care. I was told she could get herself to the bathroom, this was a lie.”
Ms Simon contacted her council for support, but quickly found the help offered only stretched so far.
“She was provided with three visits a day which were for 30 minutes. It took her that long to get to the bathroom and her dementia meant that she was increasingly confused.
“The discharge was unsafe. I work full time and have two young children, so I had to act fast to arrange extra care for my mum.
“I had no choice but to sort out private carers. I managed to find some extra support; however, my mum’s dementia was getting worse.”
Feeling overwhelmed, Ms Simon reached out to charity Adult Social Services for professional advice.
She added: “I was told that because I had sorted care out myself and my mother was a self-funder, she was not entitled to an assessment.
“Anyone who may have social care needs is entitled to an assessment, even if they are a self-funder. I continue to work, raise two children, and look after my mother as no one else will help.
“My mother has some savings and must completely fund her own care which I understand, and I have never asked for financial support, just professional guidance as I don’t know what I am doing and at times feel completely out of my depth.”
Kari Gerstheimer, chief executive officer and founder of Access Social Care, warned if things carry on as they are, the social care system won’t survive.
She said: “Every day millions of people across the country are going without the care they are legally entitled to.
“At Access Social Care we have led a project combining data from five national helpline organisations which shows that calls from carers into helplines have risen by nearly 400 per cent over the last two years.
“In this context it is alarming that the report also finds that several councils have not recorded the number of individuals who have contacted them regarding social care.”
Ms Gerstheimer said simple duties from councils are being sacrificed due to a lack of funding and immediate action is needed from the central Government.
She added: “The demand on local authorities is continually rising, and inflation means the cost of delivering care is also increasing, yet local authority budgets do not reflect the extraordinary level of care that is needed.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic the government has worked with local authorities and the sector to ensure those who need care get it.
“We have made available record funding available including more than £2.9bn in additional funding for adult social care during the pandemic.
“We want to deliver world-leading social care with far-reaching reforms backed by £5.4bn over three years through the Health and Social Care Levy which will then rise.”
This article has been updated to include the response from the Department of Health and Social Care.
Do you have a reader query, concern or a financial issue you want addressed? Contact: C.Coombe-Whitlock@inews.co.uk