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Disabled people 'risk losing right to take part in society' with social care 'on its knees'

Disabled people are facing harrowing experiences because social care is "on its knees" after years of chronic underfunding

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The report warns that the social care system is struggling to cope. Image: Unsplash

Disabled people are missing out on lifeline services as social care is “on its knees” following over a decade of chronic underfunding, a national disability charity has warned.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) report found that the cost of living crisis is having a dangerous impact across the health social care sectors.

“The cost of living crisis is biting harder for the public, staff and providers – and workforce pressures have escalated. This combination increases the risk of unfair care – where those who can afford to pay for treatment do so, and those who can’t face longer waits and reduced access,” the report reads.

“Adult social care providers are facing increased running costs, including food and electricity, with some struggling to pay their staff a wage in line with inflation, which affects recruitment and retention. This is likely to have an impact on people.”

It found that record numbers of people are waiting for planned care and treatment, with more than 7 million people on elective care waiting lists in June 2023. The true number of people could be much higher, as some people who need treatment are struggling to get a referral from their GP.

Richard Kramer, chief executive of Sense, said: “This report makes for grim reading, but sadly echoes things that we are currently seeing in the social care sector. Social care is on its knees after years of chronic underfunding, and the cost of living crisis is having a huge impact – with local authority budgets not keeping up with rising costs. 

“Social care doesn’t just support disabled people with their basic needs, it’s also what enables them to be a part of their communities. We’re very concerned that the challenges the sector is currently facing means disabled people are at risk of losing that right to take part in society.”

Sense research this year found that nearly a third (31%) of people with complex disabilities who receive social care experienced staff shortages over the previous twelve months.

The CQC report noted that more than nine in 10 adult social services directors in England did not believe there was the “funding” or “workforce” to meet care needs of older and disabled people in their area ahead of winter 2022/23. It is likely to be worse following the impact of the cost of living crisis.

And disabled people from an ethnic minority background are particularly affected. The report highlighted that the average age of death for people with a learning disability who are from an ethnic minority group is 34 years – this is just over half the life expectancy of white counterparts, at 62 years.

“One major issue facing the sector is the lack of staff,” Kramer added. “Too many disabled people are missing out on the care they need because there aren’t enough care workers with the right skills. We desperately need a social care workforce strategy that will ensure we can keep our talented, caring workforce in social care. 

“At Sense, we are committed to providing the highest quality of care available to people with complex disabilities. We are calling on the government to partner with us in that mission by urgently investing in social care with more funding and a workforce strategy.”



The numbers of autistic people and people with a learning disability in hospitals are still high – at the end of June 2023, there were 2,035 inpatients. Over half have been there for over two years.

The Big Issue previously reported that a young man – who has a severe learning disability and autism – was wrongly detained under the Mental Health Act for more than six years.

“In the hospital, he begged for me to take him away,” his mother said. “He begged mummy to take him home.”

Tim Nicholls, head of influencing and research at the National Autistic Society, said: “The trauma caused to those who are wrongly detained in hospitals, scared and alone without the right support they need, is unimaginable – with a devastating and long-lasting impact on their physical and mental health.”

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