Almost 50 councils say they have had care home providers in their area close within the last six months, according to an annual survey of the sector.
The social care survey, carried out by the Association for the Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), showed that adult social care now makes up 38% of total council budgets.
“NHS pressures continue to have serious impacts on the provision of social care”
It revealed that 48 councils had seen care home providers closing or ceasing to trade and 44 councils had seen contracts handed back by providers unable to meet them.
More than three quarters (78%) of councils said they were concerned about their ability to meet the statutory duty to ensure care market stability.
In addition, 92% of councils who had increased their precepts to cover social care costs said it was just to keep up with demographic pressures and would not help with long-term demand.
Emergency funding from the government last year caused a “significant and sustained” cut in delayed transfers from hospital to community care, said ADASS.
But it warned that without urgently need short and long-term funding for the sector the “increasingly fragile” social care system faced a bleak future.
ADASS has called on the government to continue short-term protected funding so that emergency needs can be met until the publication of a social care green paper, which is expected later this year.
“The care sector already suffers from high staff turnover”
The association argued that the green paper should find a way to deliver long-term, adequate funding for the sector. It also called on the government to help councils support the care market, value the skilled staff that work within it and put providers on a secure financial footing.
Recruitment and retention remains the main worry for social care leaders with employees in the sector among the lowest paid in the economy. Directors of adult social services selected the ability to increase salaries as the most important factor in recruitment and retention.
Glen Garrod, president of ADASS, said the association was “determined” that the upcoming green paper delivered the change that “the people we care for, and our skilled and dedicated workforce, are crying out for”.
The budget survey revealed that essential care and support for people with complex needs was not getting the financial backing it needed, he said.
“It’s also worrying that despite social care’s contributions to reducing pressures on hospitals, NHS pressures continue to have serious impacts on the provision of social care,” he said.
“There is an undeniable, urgent and imperative requirement on the government to act to ensure interim funding continues until the green paper is implemented, that the social care workforces receives the wages and esteem it deserves, that the care market is safeguarded, and that the long-term funding solution that social care desperately needs is finally delivered,” he said.
“The stark consequences of this include an ever more fragile provider market”
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the report showed that ploughing extra money into the NHS on its own was not enough.
Unless social care was properly supported, she said it would “simply pile pressure on ailing hospitals as well as leaving vulnerable residents high and dry when care homes have to close because councils can’t pay the market rate for fees”.
She highlighted the worry over retention and recruitment in the survey. “Pay has now been boosted in the NHS,” she said. “The RCN is now calling for a review of the pay structure in social care.
She added: “The care sector already suffers from high staff turnover. The ADASS leaders are right to identify the need to boost wages if they are to prevent an exodus of staff for better paid jobs in hospitals and the community.”
The Local Government Association said the report was “further compelling evidence of the irrefutable crisis” in adult social care.
“Councils in England will have seen their core funding from central government reduce by £16bn between 2010 and 2020 – almost exactly the same as their planned spend for adult social care for 2017-18,” said Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board.
The fact that councils spent nearly 40% of their budget on adult social care showed their desire to protect the service, she said. But Ms Seccombe added that rising demand and increased cost pressures meant many councils had to make significant savings in their social care budgets.
“The stark consequences of this include an ever more fragile provider market, growing unmet and under-met need, further strain on informal carers, less investment in prevention, and continued pressure on an already-overstretched workforce,” she said.