Concern comes following the recent comments made by Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care

Abuse lawyers at Leigh Day have voiced grave concerns over the future of our social care system, following comments made by the Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Andrea Sutcliffe, this week on failing care standards in England.

It was reported that the Care Quality Commission has received over 30,000 allegations of physical, sexual and financial abuse since January 2015. This equates to 150 calls per day, made in respect of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including older people, people with a learning disability, and those with chronic disabling physical or mental health conditions; exactly those who our social care system exists to protect.  This is a shocking indictment of how current social care services are failing.

Amongst other things, the report lists ‘inappropriate physical constraints’; neglect of service users; and failings in providing even the most basic care, such as personal hygiene and the administration of daily medicines. Widespread criticism of reporting procedures, or lack thereof within care settings, raises fears that such failings are often not recorded and that the above figures, whilst shocking in themselves, may belie the full extent of the problem.

After an inspection, a care home is awarded a rating in each of the following categories: ‘safe’, ‘effective’, ‘caring’, responsive’ and ‘well led’. The most recent inspection ratings, published on the CQC website, show that care placements are failing to reach the requisite standard of care in the areas covered by the CQC inspections 40% of the time.

According to the figures released by the CQC, the recent inspection revealed that there were over seven times more ‘inadequate’ than ‘good’ ratings. Most worryingly, it is the ‘safety of service users’ category – arguably the most fundamental – that has the highest proportion of ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ ratings.

From 2013 to 2014, the CQC reported that as many as 1 in 5 nursing homes did not have enough staff on duty to ensure residents’ safety. Whilst all too often the abuse allegations arise from residential care settings, figures have also revealed that 7,604 of the 30,000 allegations made concerned people receiving care in a domiciliary setting.

Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at Leigh Day, said:

“Huge cuts in public funding, leading to insufficient staffing levels; underpaid, undertrained and demotivated workers; and entirely unrealistic time constraints for delivering care, is what lies at the heart of this.

“Not only is this dehumanising both for the person being cared for and for the person providing that care, it is also diametrically opposed to the principle enshrined in the Care Act that the wellbeing and welfare of vulnerable people should always be put first.

Since 2010 the social care budget has been cut by £4.6 billion, whilst the elderly population has simultaneously increased by nearly 16%. During this time there has been a 40% reduction in the number of people receiving social care.

Andrea Sutcliffe has commented that the system itself needs to change, and in particular that local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups need to be able to allocate appropriate funding to ensure that care services meet the required standards.

Ms Millar concluded:

“Without this, the system of care for the most vulnerable in society will continue to fail; a greater burden will likely be placed on the NHS with increasing revolving door admissions and prolonged or indefinite hospital stays; and there is a real risk - if not inevitability - that further abuse scandals, such as that that occurred at Winterbourne View over 4 years ago, will continue to emerge.”