Social care COVID-19 deaths highlight need for government to go further on funding and reform Health Foundation response to Office for National Statistics data on deaths in the care sector in England and Wales in 2020

2 December 2021

Commenting on Office for National Statistics data on deaths in the care sector in England and Wales in 2020, Hugh Alderwick, Head of Policy at the Health Foundation, said:

‘Today’s data provide yet another illustration of the devastating impact of the pandemic on social care in England. Nearly 25,000 people in care homes died of COVID-19 in 2020 – around one in six of all deaths among people in care homes last year. There have also been high numbers of deaths among people receiving care at home and social care staff.

‘England is not the only country that struggled to protect people using and providing care. But the scale of the impact of COVID-19 on social care in England was not inevitable. During the first wave of the pandemic, central government support for social care in England was too slow and inadequate, and major gaps in the response persisted throughout 2020. How well government protected people using and providing care will be a key question for the future public inquiry. 

'The social care system that entered the pandemic was a threadbare safety-net, scarred by decades of political neglect and underfunding. COVID-19 has made some longstanding problems in the sector worse – and services are under extreme pressure as we head into winter. Many people go without the care they need.

‘Government’s current plans to reform and improve the social care system do not go far enough. Yesterday's white paper paints a positive picture of what social care could look like in the future, but government funding falls well short of what is needed to turn this vision into reality. Beyond the money to cover the new cap on care costs, just £1.7bn of extra funding from the health and care levy will go towards the social care system over the next three years. This will not be enough to tackle the high levels of unmet need, persistent workforce shortages and recruitment difficulties, and the precarious position facing many care providers. To meet these challenges, we estimate that additional funding of around £7.6bn in 2022/23 is needed, rising to £9.0bn in 2024/25, over and above that provided for in the Spending Review.’ 

Media contact

Simon Perry
Simon.Perry@health.org.uk
020 7257 2093

Further reading

Press release

New vision for social care will feel like hollow words without the money to deliver it

1 December 2021
Press release

Health Foundation response to publication of the Government’s adult social care reform white paper.

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