'We're in a crisis': Inside the care home sector desperate for change

MIchael Irons moved into Florence House earlier this year. Credit: ITV News Anglia

With costs rising exponentially, strains on staff levels and coronavirus continuing, the social care sector is in a crisis like never before, say health leaders. And the problems hitting the industry are sending reverberations throughout the NHS, as ITV News Anglia's NHS: The Worst Winter? explains.

Michael Irons moved into a care home less than a year ago - but he's already worried about having to move out.

The 75-year-old has Parkinson's and relies on round-the-clock care to help him with everyday tasks such as eating.

He enjoys life at Florence House in Peterborough, but admits that financial worries - and the question of who will pay for his care - weigh heavy on his mind.

"What worries me is that they might throw me out," said Mr Irons. He pays for his care privately, but is unsure how much longer he will be able to afford it.

“I could be downgraded to a smaller room, or I will just be pushed from pillar to post, I guess. It's not easy living in care, because it's uncertain who's going to look after us, and how long it's going to last."

The care home insists Mr Irons' future is safe - but his case illustrates the financial pressures that hang over every element of the the entire social care sector.

Paying for residential care in a care home can be extremely expensive. Financial support is available for those that meet requirements, covering some or all of their care costs.

But care providers say funding from local authorities is nowhere near enough and no longer covers the range of costs which were already high - and have been driven up further by inflation.

Elsewhere in the sector, staff shortages mean that homes are unable to accept new residents from hospital, leading to backlogs and so-called "bed-blockers" in hospitals unable to discharge patients.

Many homes across the country have turned to only providing private care, rather than accepting funding from local authorities.

Yasamin Watts, the manager of Florence House. Credit: ITV Anglia

Yasamin Watts, the manager of Florence House, said it was no longer financially viable for her to take council-funded residents. 

It costs her care home around £1,000 a week to cover the costs of looking after a resident - but council funding falls hundreds of pounds short, she says.

“We are in a crisis, and it's getting worse, so it will get to the point where more and more homes close," she said.

“It's a government funding issue, it's not a local authority issue, because they've only got a pot of money that they're dealing with, so I completely appreciate that that's all they've got and they're doing the best they can.”

She added: “The government needs to ring-fence more money and put it in social care. It's only going to get worse."

She said residents like Mr Irons would not be asked to leave, but the reality was that was simply not viable for businesses to lose money.

She said: "Sometimes it can be quite heartbreaking, because you get these cases come through by email, and you think 'I really really want to help them'.

"Sometimes I will take them on a respite for a short period of time, but just to make sure that the home is financially viable, I just can't do it."

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said it had made additional funding available in its most recent budget.

“The government has prioritised health and social care in the Autumn Statement, with up to £7.5bn available over the next two years to support adult social care services – the biggest funding increase in history," he added.

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