As many as four in 10 people in Wales who may have needed social care did not access its services during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report.
Commissioned by Senedd Cymru (Welsh Parliament) and led by Dr Simon Williams of Swansea University, the study explored public attitudes and experiences of social care in Wales two years on from the start of the pandemic.
The study, which involved a survey of 2,569 respondents in Wales and a series of focus groups, found that the Covid-19 pandemic hit social care hard, exacerbating the social care crisis, and intensifying pressure on the workforce.
The study’s key findings reveal that:
- Four in 10 people who felt that they or someone in their household or close family needed social care during the past two years did not receive or make use of it.
- The pandemic was cited as a major reason why many of those who may have needed social care didn’t access it – either out of fear of contracting Covid or because they didn’t want to burden social care services that were experiencing significant pressures.
- Satisfaction with social care was variable, with approximately one-third either very or quite dissatisfied, and a little over half either very or quite satisfied with social care services for themselves or a household or close family member.
- Among those who felt that they or someone in their household didn’t receive or make use of social care despite needing it, the most common reasons people gave included: lack of availability or staff shortages (22%), not fitting eligibility criteria (17%), feeling too proud to access care (15%) and the application process being too complicated (10%).
- Most of the respondents (86%) felt that the social care system in Wales needs reform, and 94% of said that it should be a priority for the UK and Welsh Governments.
In the focus groups, participants argued that there is a need for consistency in the social care received, more personalised care, better integration between health and social care, and a need for more investment in social care. Some felt that reform should see the integration of social care into the NHS, while others argued for the establishment of a separate national care service.
Dr Williams said: “It is concerning that approximately four in 10 of those feeling in need of social care did not receive or make use of social care services. Social care policymakers and providers should seek to understand and address what people feel are the main barriers to accessing or using social care, including increasing provision for those who need it, encouraging and enabling those who feel they need social care to apply, consider broadening the eligibility criteria where appropriate, and simplifying the application process.
“As with healthcare services, another challenge for social care services may be the need to address a potential backlog in those needing care, who were either unable to access services due to restrictions or staff shortages, or did not want to apply because they were concerned about infection risk or did not want to bother services.”