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7 September 2021

How England’s social care crisis has grown

Around 14,000 fewer people were granted care in 2019-20 than in 2015-16.

Boris Johnson’s government today announced that it would increase National Insurance by 1.25 per cent to help address England’s social care crisis. Due to funding cuts and an ageing population, the amount of social care provided has failed to keep pace with the increasing number of people in need.

The gap between the number of people requesting social care support and those receiving it has grown since 2015
Number of people (Indexed to 2015-16, where 2015-16 = 1)
Source: NHS Digital; The King’s Fund

According to the latest figures from the NHS, in 2019-20 1.9 million people requested adult social care, of which an estimated 1.1 million people received long or short-term support. These services are intended to assist older and working-age people who need help with day-to-day living.

Compared with 2015-16, in the 2019-20, 120,000 more people requested social care support – a number that has risen each year. Around 14,000 fewer people however, were granted help than in 2015-16. According to an analysis in 2020 by health charity The King’s Fund, much of the divergence over the years has been driven by a widening gap between supply and demand for people over 65. 

Unlike the NHS, social care is not free at point of service and is instead means-tested. Currently, councils in England and Northern Ireland only provide financial assistance to those with savings and assets of less than £23,250. The announcement today however raises the “floor”, meaning people with assets and savings worth between £20,000 and £100,000 will receive partial support, while those with assets worth less than £20,000 will receive fully-funded care. As of October 2023, the maximum someone will have to pay for care will also be capped at £86,000.

[See also: How Boris Johnson will try to bounce Tory MPs into voting for his tax rise]

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