Exclusive analysis by NationalWorld reveals stark regional variations in access to care, with people in some parts of the country much less likely to be denied the support they ask for
More than a quarter of adults in England who applied for social care support last year were turned down, with people in the North West most likely to be left to fend for themselves.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said NationalWorld’s analysis revealed “an unjust and unacceptable” variation in access to care, particularly across the North and Midlands, brought about by a starvation of funds to the sector.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed his new plan to fix adult social care in England today (7 September), through a 1.25 percentage point hike to National Insurance to fund the care sector as well as a post-pandemic NHS catchup plan.
Councils received more than 1.9 million requests for support from new clients in need of help in 2019-20, NHS Digital data shows – 44 for every 1,000 residents.
Of those, 530,560 (27.5%) were recorded as having ‘no services provided’ to them. In the North West region, a third (33.1%) of clients met with this outcome, NationalWorld’s analysis reveals, as did 32% of people in the West Midlands and 31.8% in the North East.
Not all of the remaining clients will have received true social care services. Many were simply signposted to other organisations, such as in the charity sector, or to council services available to all residents, like transport and leisure.
Only just over two in five (43%) were given genuine social care.
That could include long or short term support arranged by the council, in residential settings or in the community; end of life care; ongoing low level support; or more intensive care funded by the NHS for those with severe health needs.
Chris Thomas, senior research fellow at the IPPR think tank, said: “These new figures show an unjust and unacceptable variation in access to care in the North and the Midlands – something also shown by IPPR research.
“It’s a sad symptom of a social care system so starved of funds, that it can’t provide many with the support they need, from the point when they first need it.
“That is a missed opportunity to prevent need, ensure independence and help people live flourishing lives.
“The Government needs to ensure its new proposals for social care enable everyone to access the care they need – no matter who they are or where they live.”
The plan should also address delivering more services within people’s homes and communities, he added.
Councils in the North of England face by far the greatest demand on their social services.
Last year, there were 5,478 new requests for support per 100,000 people across the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber, compared to 4,717 across the midlands and 3,653 in the southern regions.
People in the northern regions on average live shorter healthy or disability-free lives than southerners, Public Health England data shows.
In July, NationalWorld revealed how the northern and midlands regions had borne the worst of swingeing cuts to social care outside of London, with spending falling by more than 12% over the last decade in the North East.
There was also a north-south divide in the proportion of applicants turned away – 28.7% in the North West, North East and Yorkshire, 28.8% in the Midlands, and 27% in the southern regions, including London – while the success rate varied wildly from council to council.
In Hull, only 140 out of 10,710 applications (1.3%) were recorded as ‘no services provided’.
Seven councils – Northumberland, Tameside, Calderdale, North Lincolnshire, Camden, Hammermith and Fulham, and Newham – turned away even fewer than this, although an exact proportion is not available as low numbers are suppressed to protect patient anonymity.
But in North East Lincolnshire, the rate was 72.2%, with 8,840 out of the 12,240 applicants left with nothing.
Spending on adult social care in North East Lincolnshire has fallen by 19.4% in real terms since 2010-11, or £109 per resident, the 14th biggest cut in England. Spending in Hull has risen by 1.6%.
There was no clear correlation between spending cuts and the success rate of applications across all councils, however.
NHS Digital says the outcome of ‘no support provided’ should “not be seen as reflecting negatively on the local authority but more as a statement about the type of request for support that was made”.
Today Boris Johnson appeared before MPs in Parliament to reveal his plan to fix social care, which will see National Insurance contributions increase by 1.25 percentage points.
That means worker contributions on earnings under about £50,000 will increase from 12% to 13.25%, while contributions on earnings above this will rise from 2% to 3.25%. The portion paid by employers will also rise.
The increase, which is expected to raise £36 billion over the next three years, will fund both social care and the NHS.
Mr Johnson had pledged in the 2019 election to address social care without increasing taxes.
He told MPs he accepted the move breaks his manifesto promise, but that “a global pandemic was in no one’s manifesto”.
“Having spent £407 billion or more to support lives and livelihoods throughout the pandemic from furlough to vaccines, it would be wrong for me to say that we can pay for this recovery without taking the difficult but responsible decisions about how we finance it,” he said.
“We will do all this in a way that is right and reasonable and fair.”
Social care is devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Department for Health and Social Care was approached for comment.
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