British public backs increase in social care spending

Hands on walking stick

More than 80 per cent of the British public supports a 3.9 per cent increase in social care spending – the minimum uplift needed just to maintain current levels of provision for a projected rise in demand for social care services.

Seventy-seven per cent support a 4 per cent increase in healthcare spending to help meet growing demand and make some ‘modest improvements’, new polling by IPSOS Mori for the NHS Confederation has found.

The polling figures follow on from research commissioned by the NHS Confederation into health and social care funding needs to the 2030s, which sets out strong evidence supporting an increase in spending on social care.

In particular, the study found that a funding boost is needed to address inconsistent social care provision across the UK, and to tackle rising numbers of people with unmet care needs, which has led to increasing reliance on unpaid care from friends and families.

But social care funding must also rise to tackle problems facing the health service, including rising numbers of emergency admissions and patients facing delayed discharges as a result of social care spending cuts.

A new paper, released by the NHS Confederation at its annual conference in Manchester, puts forward the NHS view the issues engulfing social care.

The poll – a nationally representative sample of 1,000 British adults/adults across the UK – revealed:

  • 82 per cent of people either support or strongly support a 3.9 per cent spending increase for social care. The report Securing the Future: funding health and social care to the 2030s points out this is necessary to meet the demands of an ageing population and a growing number of younger adults living with disabilities.
  • 45 per cent agree with increasing National Insurance and 42 per cent agree with increasing income tax – in both cases more agreed with these options than disagreed.
  • men are more likely to back income tax increases than women while women are more likely to get behind a National Insurance increase than men.
  • the majority of people aged over 55 would agree to increasing income tax to fund healthcare spending. When it comes to a proposed NI rise to fund healthcare spending, the majority of people aged over 45 agreed.

Rise and fall
Securing the future, written by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Health Foundation and published last month, highlights that spending on adult social care has fallen since 2009/10, despite increasing demand from a growing and ageing population.

The report finds that 3.9 per cent annual increases in social care spending would be the minimum needed, just to continue the current level of service provision for projected demand for social care services, which are expected to rise by around £18 billion by 2033/34.

Since 2009/10, local authorities have faced sizeable cuts in funding from central government. Many have responded to squeezed budgets by tightening eligibility criteria and concentrating care and support on those with the highest needs. As a result, over 400,000 fewer people accessed publicly funded social care in 2016/17 than in 2009/10.

Differences in needs and generosity have led to large differences in spending per adult in local authorities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 2015/16, social care spending per adult was 31 per cent lower in England than in Scotland, a gap which has grown from 19 per cent in 2011/12.

The gap between spending in England and Northern Ireland is even greater.

The report also highlights that the social care workforce is larger than the NHS’s, with around 1.1 million workers in 2016, and to meet projected demand for social care services, an additional 458,000 staff will be required in the next 15 years.

‘Millions let down’
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “We were promised radical reform of social care but yet again nothing has been forthcoming. This has been an area of failure by successive governments which has let down millions of elderly and vulnerable people. Now the delays and dithering have to stop.

“Our report has sparked an important debate among politicians and the public about the future of health and social care in this country and demonstrated how dependent they are on each other.

“It demolishes the idea that the current system and funding levels are sustainable.

“The evidence makes the compelling case that we cannot go on running as we are while the new polling evidence shows the British public agrees. The choice is either significant investment or at best a period of managed decline.”

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “After eight years of austerity our social care services are failing hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and their families, and the sector is in a precarious state. The government has signalled that it will provide a much-needed funding increase for the NHS, but health and social care are inextricably linked.

“Failure to adequately fund social care, which needs funding increases of at least 3.9% a year, will mean even fewer people receiving the care they need and ongoing inconsistent provision across the UK. This will undoubtedly exacerbate pressure on the NHS, with more and more people with no alternative but to seek help in A&E departments, and hospital beds blocked due to a severe lack of community care.”

The NHS Confederation has launched a petition to secure a parliamentary debate on a commitment to health and social care funding to 2035. To lend your support, sign the e-petition today.

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