Unprecedented demand for social care with unpaid carers at breaking point

By Agencies
November 26, 2020

Tens of thousands of people are turning to social services for urgent help because of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on families and individuals with support needs who are unable to cope any further on their own, or whose usual arrangements have broken down.

A survey of councils across England has found sharp increases in requests for help from people being discharged from hospital, fleeing from domestic abuse, or losing their regular support from unpaid carers who are themselves at breaking point.

The survey of more than 100 councils by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) offers some of the first hard evidence of the debilitating effects of the Covid-19 emergency on society. Many councils are reporting unprecedented demand for help.

James Bullion, ADASS President, said: “This report paints a stark picture of how the pandemic has affected millions of us who have care and support needs, or who care for a family member who does. For the first time, we have hard evidence of the scale and breadth of the impact of COVID-19 on those of us who are working-age disabled people, older people, family members, and carers.”

ADASS is warning that unless adult social care is prioritised, millions of people could be at risk of receiving no care or support as the crisis continues and its impact becomes ever starker.

Its survey shows that:

  • 82 per cent of adult social services directors report rising demand for help from people being discharged from hospital.
  • 69 per cent report an increase in cases of domestic abuse and safeguarding of vulnerable adults.
  • 63 per cent report growing numbers of people seeking help because of the breakdown of unpaid carer arrangements through sickness or unavailability.


James Bullion said: “This should be a wake-up call for the government, and it must respond. The risk is that unless adult social care is prioritised in the Spending Review, the caring arrangements that millions of us rely upon will break down and the cost will the paid by society and the economy.

“This is an opportunity to send a clear signal that working-age disabled people, older people and carers are recognised, valued, and protected. Failure to invest now will also make the goal of long-term reform so much harder to achieve”.

Responding to the survey, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said: “The rise in the breakdown of unpaid carer arrangements is seriously troubling news, but sadly it has been coming for a long time with unpaid carers expected to provide extraordinary hours of care since the pandemic started nine months ago.

“When the first lockdown began, 70 per cent of unpaid carers took on more care for loved ones. Six months later, we found that 81 per cent were continuing to provide extraordinary hours of care for loved ones, unable to rely on day and support services and two thirds (63 per cent) unable to take any breaks whatsoever in that time.

“The majority told us that the needs of the person they care for had increased during the pandemic, hardly surprising given that 49 per cent of carers said that day services had not returned in their area – meaning many are now struggling alone or with a very low level of support.

“We are deeply concerned about how carers will continue to cope over the winter. The Government must ensure their health and wellbeing is protected and provide those caring for more than 50 hours a week with a funded break. The Chancellor must acknowledge this red flag being waved by unpaid carers." 

ADASS is seeking a funding package that would stabilise the adult social care system next year, meet all Covid-19 costs and offer some certainty for the longer term including multi-year funding settlements.

* Association of Directors of Adult Social Services https://www.adass.org.uk/

* Carers UK https://www.carersuk.org/home

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