More than 100,000 people in England have died while waiting for social care over the last four years.
Analysis of NHS Digital data by NationalWorld reveals 107,310 people who applied for adult social services from their local council between April 2016 and March 2020 died before they received any support.
That was about one in every 56 applicants. In 2019-20 alone, 33,755 people died while waiting, or an average of 92 per day.
Social care support includes end of life care – which was provided to 7,310 applicants last year – meaning those recorded as deceased prior to care provision did not receive this, unless it was arranged privately with no involvement from the council.
The Institute for Public Policy Research said many people have been left to die “without dignity” because of a lack of funding for services to provide end of life support at home.
It follows a report by NationalWorld revealing fewer than half of those who apply will get genuine social care, with more than a quarter turned away with no support provided at all.
"It’s very concerning that 100,000 people have died in the period between applying for social care and receiving it,” said Chris Thomas, senior research fellow for IPPR.
“The evidence is clear that people overwhelmingly prefer to receive end of life care in their homes and communities, but that is only possible if funding is there for the right services.
“Sadly, this hasn’t been the case - meaning many people dying deaths without dignity.
"IPPR analysis shows the Covid-19 pandemic has made this worse, by increasing the number of people relying on overstretched home, community and social care services for their end of life care."
The council with the highest number of deaths last year was Gloucestershire, where 2,225 people died. That was 12% of the 18,555 new clients who asked for support during the year.
That was followed by Norfolk (1,680), Staffordshire (1,595), Derbyshire (1,445) and Essex (1,430).
The figures are likely an underestimate.
In 2016-17, the first year the data was published, only 6,580 people were recorded as deceased after applying for care. That jumped to 32,115 the following year and has stayed above 30,000 each year since.
Reporting the deaths was only made mandatory in 2017-18, and could be recorded under an umbrella group of ‘no services provided’ in 2016-17, which may be behind the sudden increase.
NationalWorld asked the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for a response. It did not address the figures, directing us instead to a press release on the Prime Minister’s new plan for social care announced on Tuesday (7 September).
The vast majority who died last year were aged 65 or over. More than one in 50 applicants (2.2%) in this age group (30,415 out of 1.37 million) were deceased before they received care.
That compared to 3,340 out of 560,350 applicants aged 18 to 64 (0.6%).
On Tuesday the Government announced an increase to National Insurance contributions of 1.25 percentage points.
The majority of new funds from this ring-fenced ‘health and social care levy’ will initially go to the NHS to help it catch up in the wake of the pandemic, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid told a Downing Street press conference.
Around £5.3 billion of a total of £36 billion raised between 2022-23 and 2024-25 is intended to go to social care.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government was “putting a sticking plaster on gaping wounds”.
Other measures announced include a lifetime cap of £86,000 on the amount people will pay towards their care, and lowering the asset threshold after which point people must contribute to their care to £20,000, down from £23,250.
MPs are due to vote on the plans today (8 September).
The charity Mencap however said it “can’t see how the proposed cap on care costs will benefit people with a learning disability”.
Many charities, social care providers and think tanks have said the £5.3 billion represents a missed opportunity and does not go far enough.
Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, said the amount promised to social care “isn’t going to touch the crisis in the sector and will certainly not address the 120,000 vacancies in staffing, which is sending the sector into meltdown on a daily basis as care providers struggle to cover shifts”.
He added: “It will not fund the proper recruitment and training of the thousands of staff we need, nor will it allow the sector to properly reward those staff who have played such a vital, life-saving role during Covid-19.”
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