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Since the PM promised to ‘fix social care’ 2 million requests for formal care services have been rejected

Published on 18 June 2021 08:04 AM

Charity leaders call on the PM to keep his word  

The terrible, destructive impact of the pandemic makes it more important than ever for the Government to refinance and reform social care this year.

New analysis for the Care and Support Alliance as found that since the Prime Minister stood in Downing Street and promised to “fix social care, once and for all”, approaching two years ago now, a shocking two million requests for formal care and support from adults aged over 18 have been turned down by their local council. This is equivalent to about 21,000 requests being turned down each week, or 3,000 every day (1).   

To put these figures in context, it is well established that social care is chronically underfunded and that many local councils are struggling to meet the care needs of their communities (2). We have an ageing population and growing numbers of disabled people of working age, for example, but central Government funding has not kept pace with the consequent growing demand for care.

Unfortunately, the pandemic threatens to make an already bad situation even worse; research recently published by Age UK found that being stuck at home for long periods, largely immobile and without the stimulation of company, is demonstrably accelerating and intensifying some older people’s need for care (3).

This new finding is being published on the day that the leaders of 50 charities and not for profit organisations belonging to the Alliance have written to the Prime Minister, calling on him to act this year in order to fulfil the promise he made to the country to ‘fix social care’, when he first entered office on 24th July 2019.   

Nearly 100 weeks later there is still nothing to show from the Prime Minister’s promise. What’s more, people who rely on social care have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. As the leaders say in their letter:  

"During the pandemic tens of thousands died before their time in care homes from COVID-19. The best possible legacy we can give all those who have lost loved ones would be to ensure that we fix the care system so that a similar tragedy cannot happen again.”  

The signatories are leaders in organisations that support older people, disabled people, those with mental ill health and other long term health conditions, and their unpaid carers. They include Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Carers UK, Mencap, Mind and many others.   

The letter explains that these organisations were delighted when they heard the Prime Minister make his pledge and that now, after everything social care has been through during the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that he stands by his word.  

Caroline Abrahams CBE, Co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance and Charity Director of Age UK, said: “The fact that two million requests for care have been turned down by local councils over the last two years or so is mind-blowing. Although this enormous group of our fellow citizens will no doubt demonstrate many different needs, some care will have been essential for all of them to live well and with dignity. Without it, their lives will have been diminished in quality and sometimes quantity too, with huge pressure placed on families and friends to try to compensate for the absence of properly funded support. We can’t go on like this, it is simply too unfair on everyone involved.

“The responsibility for reforming and refinancing care lies squarely with central Government, so it was fantastic to hear the Prime Minister pledge to “fix social care once and for all”, when he entered No 10 in July 2019. Now, if this terrible pandemic doesn’t make the case for determined Government action on social care I struggle to think what will. Sadly, we can’t bring back the more than 40,000 lives lost in care settings, but we can at least do everything possible to prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again. That means a thorough overhaul of social care, with the funding to match, starting this year.

“As charities and not for profits that see the positive difference good social care makes to people, and the misery and distress caused when it’s not there, our message to the Prime Minister is simple: it’s time for you and your Government to deliver on the promise you have made.”

Social care enables people to lead independent and fulfilling lives. It includes help with personal care (washing, dressing and eating), support with everyday tasks (shopping, managing money, cooking) and for disabled adults of working age help with socialising, going to work and taking part in local activities. Even before the pandemic at least 1.6 million people went without the care they needed (4).

Notes to Editors 
The full letter and signatories can be found here

Video of Boris’s promises

The Care and Support Alliance (CSA) co-ordinated the letter and is a coalition of some of the country’s leading national charities with an interest in social care. The aim of the alliance is that everyone who needs it should be to receive enough, high quality care. The CSA is co-chaired by Caroline Abrahams CBE, Charity Director at Age UK; Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK; and Jackie O’Sullivan, Director of Communication, Advocacy and Activism, Mencap.

End Notes  

1. Age UK analysis for the CSA of NHS Digital data (accessed here: We used data on the number of requests for support made to local authorities by new clients aged 18-64 and 65+ which were concluded with ‘universal services / signposting to other services’, ‘no services provided – deceased’ and ‘no services provided’ in 2019/20 – the most recent period for which data are published. We assumed that the mean of 3016 such cases each day during 2019/20 remained similar throughout the 696 days from 24.07.2019, when Boris Johnson took office as Prime Minister, and 18.06.2021, and therefore estimate that 2,099,365 (‘more than 2 million’) requests for support during this period did not result in care being offered.

  1. Government spending on adult social care in England fell from an average of £346 per person in 2010/11 to £324 in 2017/18. This is far less than spending on publicly funded social care in Scotland (£446) and Wales (£424).


More older people requested support in 2018/19 but around 12,500 fewer older people received support.


  1. Age UK analysis of wave 9 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, scaled up to the age 65+ population of England using Office for National Statistics mid year population estimates for 2019.

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Last updated: Jun 18 2021

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