Social care reform, deaths in care and the pandemic

The Queen’s speech was delivered to both Houses of Parliament on 11 May 2021 with a focus upon protecting the health of the nation and economic growth. Criticism has been made however, of the lack of a concrete commitment to address the long-standing funding issues that have plagued the care sector with a brief mention only made within the speech that “proposals on social care reform will be brought forward”.  This appears to follow a lack of agreement between No 10 and the Treasury regarding a strategy to limit the amounts pensioners have to pay towards their own care. 

Currently pensioners have to pay the full cost of their care with many losing their houses or savings to fund care bills. Age UK has estimated that since July 2019 around 10,000 people have lost almost all the money saved during their life and they have pushed for the Government to take action. Whilst specific commitment to bringing forward social care reform within the Queen’s speech has been praised by Age UK, it remains to be seen how effective such proposals will be and when exactly they will be provided. Further details are expected in the autumn at the earliest.

The criticism emerges after the care sector has been at the forefront of widespread difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the need for concrete proposals to be set out to strengthen and expand the provision of social care in England.

Age UK has revealed that new findings that the pandemic has significantly increased older people’s need for social care with 1 in 4 older people’s ability to do everyday activities having worsened during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic Age UK estimated that around 1.6 million people aged 65 and over did not receive the care and support they needed in England and that it is feared this could grow to 2.1 million people by 3030.

According to the data obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), figures suggest that reported deaths  from people receiving home care in England increased by nearly 50 per cent between April 2020 to March 2021, with 25,000 deaths recorded in England. An overwhelming majority of their deaths were not however, due to COVID-19 with only 8.7% of the 25,000 deaths recorded being attributed to the virus. According to the investigation, factors contributing to the rise in deaths in some areas include a lack of PPE, slow vaccination up-take amongst some care workers and the government’s failure to prioritise funding for home care. 

As we are moving towards greater relaxation of current COVID-19 measures, it is important that the impact of the pandemic on the care sector as a whole is recognised and that action is taken now before existing problems are potentially exacerbated.  The quality of care services, availability of services for those requiring support and workforce shortages remain a key focus for the sector. 


Rachel Barnes, Associate, BLM
rachel.barnes@blmlaw.com

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