Social care under strain as demand for support rises in St Helens
The rising number of older people needing support and an increase in costs is putting strain on the social care system in St Helens, figures suggest.
Care groups hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's failure to detail long-promised social care reforms in the recent Queen’s Speech.
NHS Digital data shows there were around 15,000 new requests for local authority support for people aged 65 and over in St Helens in 2019-20 – the equivalent of 288 every week.
That was up by 86% compared to three years earlier, when there were 8,080 new requests.
But despite this rise in demand for social care for older adults in St Helens, the number receiving long-term care fell from 3,310 during 2016-17 to 3,130 in 2019-20.
Over the same period, the average weekly cost of residential or nursing care for over-65s rose to £664 – meaning a care home place cost roughly £7,200 more per year in 2019-20 than in 2016-17, after adjusting for inflation.
Overall, the council in St Helens spent £28.7 million on care for older people in 2019-20, including income from people paying towards their own care, and other organisations.
Currently, anyone with assets or savings worth £23,250 or more has to pay the full cost of their care.
People with less than that, but more than £14,250, have to pay a contribution to care costs, while the council will cover the full bill if someone's capital falls below this threshold.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in 2019 that he had a “clear plan” prepared to fix the social care system, and pledged that no one would have to sell their home to pay for spiralling costs.
Thousands across England may well have done and yet run out of cash. In 2019-20, 5,600 over-65s who requested local authority support last year were classified as "self-funders with depleted funds" – those who had exhausted their assets paying for care.
Although the Queen confirmed proposals for social care reform will be brought forward as she set out the Government’s legislative agenda on Tuesday (May 11), no further detail was given.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of the provider membership organisation Care England, said it was "a missed opportunity".
"Without the much-needed, not to mention heralded, reform it is questionable as to how much longer the sector can be expected to limp on," he said.
"A sector that supports and employs vast swathes of the population cannot be ignored."
Chairman of the Independent Care Group Mike Padgham said older and vulnerable people have been betrayed and reform has been “pushed down the road”, while Labour leader Kier Starmer said it was “unforgiveable” that a plan was not laid out in the speech.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman previously said: “Improving the adult social care system remains a priority for this government and we will bring forward proposals later this year to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
“Throughout the pandemic we have provided almost £1.8 billion in specific funding for adult social care including infection prevention and control measures."