Funding pressures compel specialist care providers to cut services
February 6, 2020
The number of learning disability service providers who say they have had to cut support for vulnerable adults has doubled in the last 12 months as a direct result of financial pressures, according to a report published in early February.
Independent research commissioned by Hft, a national charity supporting adults with learning disabilities, found that one in five organisations reported offering care to fewer individuals as a means of balancing the books (a rise of 12% from 2018), with 95% citing rising wage bills as the main drain on resources.
A third of providers cited having to shed staff in the past year, while almost half (45%) had closed down some parts of the organisation and/or handed back contracts. 52% expected to have to do so in the future.
The research is Hft’s third annual ‘Sector pulse check’ report, carried out by independent economics and business consultancy Cebr, and was the first of its kind to focus primarily on learning disability providers. Based on survey analysis from social care providers, it provides an annual snapshot of the financial health of the social care sector over the past year and an indication of how providers anticipate the next 12 months will progress.
In last year’s report, 11% of providers warned further cuts in funding could lead to a reduction in the quality of care. This year, 43% of providers said that they had witnessed a negative effect on the quality of care they were able to provide, citing an increase in complaints, worsening CQC accreditations and a decrease in morale as the most severe indicators of a decline in standards.
Billy Davis, public affairs and policy manager for Hft, said the social care sector had run out of options.
“While in the previous report, providers were focusing on streamlining through internal efficiency savings, we can now clearly see that cuts are affecting people, not just processes,” said Mr Davis.
“The lack of a sustainable cash injection for the sector has seen providers resorting to offering care to fewer people to manage spiralling costs at a time when demand for social care is widely acknowledged to be growing.
“The fact that providers are now having to take what they reported to be their least favoured cost cutting measures illustrates that these decisions are not being taken lightly. A lack of alternatives has left providers with no choice but to make decisions culturally at odds with the way they want to run their organisations, such as handing back services and, ironically, shedding staff in the midst of a sector-wide recruitment crisis.
“Given the fragility of the social care sector, there’s never been a more important time to hear the views of the organisations providing care for some of the most vulnerable people in society. This report is an opportunity to hear the collective voices on the issues facing the sector and we must listen. It’s clear that at its heart social care funding is, and continues to remain, a national issue that requires a national solution.”
Josie Dent, senior economist at Cebr, said pressure on social care providers to cut costs while also paying for increasing wage bills and agency worker fees had resulted organisations taking drastic measures.
“The share of providers now offering care to fewer individuals doubled compared to last year’s survey,” said Ms Dent.
“Meanwhile, the proportion having to make internal efficiency savings, close parts of the organisation or hand back services to local authorities remained high. The sector desperately needs more funding in order to provide the same level of care and support to the people who need it.”