Public satisfaction with social care hits new low

Public satisfaction with social care has dropped to its lowest ever level, a survey has found.

The British Social Attitude survey by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), which was published by the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund, found just 13% of the general public were happy with services.

Simon Bottery, senior fellow in social care at The King’s Fund, said: “These are awful results, but they are sadly unsurprising. For many years governments have taken too little action on social care and this is now seriously affecting those who draw on services, the families who support them and the staff who work in the sector. People realise that too many people fail to receive the social care support they need, putting an unfair requirement on unpaid carers, and that staff are overworked and underpaid.  

“The results demonstrate the need for immediate action to stabilise the social care system, backed by long-term reform and investment. The next government must take a strong step forward and prioritise social care.’”

Over half of respondents (57%) said they were either “quite dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with social care services.

The leading reason given for dissatisfaction was inadequate pay, working conditions and training for social care workers (57%). This was closely followed by people not getting the social care they need (56%) and there not being enough support for unpaid carers (49%).  

Dissatisfaction was markedly higher among respondents who had used or had contact with social care services (for either themselves or someone else) in the past 12 months (64%) compared to those who had not (49%.).  

Dissatisfaction with social care services varied considerably between demographic groups. Respondents aged 65 and over were more dissatisfied (63%) than respondents aged 18–64 (55%). Those in the highest income quartile were more dissatisfied (62%) than those in the lowest (51%). 

There is a notable difference in party affiliation, with both Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters saying they are more dissatisfied with social care services (both 62%), than Conservative supporters (51%).  

UNISON head of social care Gavin Edwards said: “The government has stood back and watched as social care slides further into crisis. No wonder satisfaction levels are plummeting.

“Generally, staff aren’t treated well and with poverty pay rates all that’s usually on offer, many don’t hang around for long.

“Carers are often left to get on with looking after their relatives or friends, without getting the support they need. And when the person they care for gets to the point where extra help is needed, most have no idea where to turn.

“Navigating the care system is beyond stressful and not for the faint-hearted. But it shouldn’t be like this.

“Only a national care service and a fair pay agreement for staff can start to turn things around. But that’s not a five-minute job. The care sector is at its lowest ebb, and it’ll take a considerable effort to get it back on its feet.”

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