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What is social care?

What is the definition of social care?

Social care services provide support to people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities/ilnesses and mental illnesses. This support can cover practical activities, personal care and social work, intended to help the people receiving social care to live comfortably.

How does social care work?

Social care is provided in many different forms, ranging from some extra help around the house and assistance with washing and dressing, through to help with building positive relationships, access to specialist equipment, or full-time residential care. The care a person receives is dependent on their specific needs.

Care services are either funded and provided formally – through the local council or private funds, or provided informally – by family members, friends or neighbours.

How many people receive social care?

In 2017, the CQC reported that residential care homes, nursing homes and specialist colleges exist in 16,000 locations in England, with the capacity to provide care for 460,000 people.

Half a million people receive personal care in their community, which includes supported living and domiciliary care services. However, there are many people receiving care from unpaid family carers who are not included in these figures.  FullFact.org reports that around 2.1 million people in the UK were estimated to have received some level of informal care in 2014 (according to the Office for National Statistics), while the number of family and friends providing unpaid care in England is likely in excess of 5.4 million.

What different types of social care services are there?

Social care providers provide a wide range of support services including:-

Where can I find out more about my options?

If you think you might be in need of social care, you should approach your local authority social services department for a needs or eligibility assessment. This will determine what type of services you might need or be entitled to.

Social care services are means-tested, so how care is funded is dependent on the recipient’s financial situation. Social care can be funded entirely by the local authority, entirely by the person themselves, or somewhere in between.

The NHS provides useful information on receiving social care.

What are the key issues in the social care sector?

Some of the key issues affecting the social care sector include:

  • An ageing population – the Office for National Statistics reports that in 2027 there will be 2.2 million more people aged 65 and over compared to 2017.
  • Funding – in recent years, local authorities have had to make significant savings, meaning less money has been available to pay for social care services, while the introduction of the National Living Wage, auto-enrolment pensions and the apprenticeship levy have all increased the costs for providers, making service-sustainability challenging.
  • Brexit – the UK leaving the European Union could affect staff and salary levels by negatively impacting on recruitment of key staff.

Who regulates social care?

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England. It ensures social care services are providing people with safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led care, as well as giving services feedback on how to improve. The CQC can take action if they find that care services do not have suitable arrangements to keep people safe in place.