17 October 2016
Nora Cooke O'Dowd

Nora Cooke O'Dowd

Research Analyst
QualityWatch

This month we updated some of our indicators on social care, based on findings from the 2015-16 Personal Adult Social Care Survey (released in September), which looks at the quality of social care services from the patient’s perspective. The annual survey asks a selection of people aged over 18 about their experiences of using social services. The surveyed population changed in 2014-15, making direct comparison difficult across years. Here, we just look at the last two years of data.

This update follows the release of the Care Quality Commission’s State of Care report, published last week, which presented findings from the CQC’s inspections of care providers across England, and found that adult social care was approaching a tipping point.

Care users’ perspective on quality of care

It is important that people have access to the right information and advice to improve their care and help them live safely and independently. Almost three quarters (73.5%) of respondents in 2015-16 said it was very or fairly easy to find information about services. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, 85% of respondents said that the services they use made them feel safe. However, only 69% of respondents said the services made them feel as safe as they wanted in 2015-16.

Overall, in 2015-16, almost two thirds of respondents (64%) said they were satisfied with their care and an additional 27% said they were quite satisfied with the services they received. Looking at satisfaction by region, London performs worse overall at only 60% reporting that they were satisfied. There may be a 'London effect' experienced in healthcare where people in London are generally less satisfied with their care compared to the rest of England.

Carers’ perspectives on quality of social care

An additional carers’ survey is undertaken every two years. There was no update to this in 2016 but in the most recent data (2014-15) over half of carers reported that they felt they had been involved or consulted as much as they wanted to be in discussions about the support and services provided to the person they cared for. The proportion who felt consulted decreased slightly in England after 2012-13. The CQC released a report earlier this year encouraging providers and commissioners to ensure people and their families are involved in care decisions.

In 2014-15, 65.5% of carers found it easy to access information about services. There was a fall in all regions in the proportion of carers who found it easy to find information and advice about support, services or benefits. Age UK recently highlighted the increasing number of carers aged over 80. Our indicators show that those aged 85+ were most likely to report that they found it easy to access information, while those aged 45–64 were most likely to say they were involved in discussions around the person they cared for.

Carer-reported quality of life was highest in the North East of England, but fell marginally across the country. Carers UK has undertaken a survey of carers in the UK to build a better picture of the state of caring in the UK, finding that unpaid care is worth roughly £132bn. NHS England has published a 'commitment to carers' in an attempt to improve carer health and wellbeing as they are estimated to be twice as likely to suffer from ill-health as non-carers.

State of adult social care

According to the recent State of Care report launched by the Care Quality Commission this month, adult social care is reaching a tipping point as it is under pressure from increased demand, financial strain and difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff. At the end of July 2016, 72% of all adult social care services inspected were rated good or outstanding, leaving a substantial 28% of services that require improvement. Furthermore, half of the services that were re-inspected after an initial rating of ‘requires improvement’ had no change in their rating, suggesting difficulties in delivering the required improvements.

There is an increasing number of people who no longer have access to services: the number of older people receiving local authority-funded social care fell 26% from more than 1.1 million in 2009, to around 850,000 in 2013-14. Age UK estimated that more than a million older people in England were living with unmet social care needs in 2015, compared to 800,000 in 2010. The Personal Adult Social Care Survey asks only people who are either wholly or partially funded by social services about their experiences and thus the experiences of those with an unmet need are not captured here.

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