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The Care Act (2014) 10 years on

Community Care Law

This June, we are running our campaign ‘Social Care Funding Matters’ to raise awareness of the issues surrounding care funding and paying for care.

The Care Act was heralded as putting the wellbeing of the individual with care needs at the centre of care planning. But those advising people who need care and support and their families may not be surprised to hear that the lofty ideals of the Act have not been achieved. This is in part due to the huge lack of resources in staffing.

What are the aims of the Care Act?

 The Care Act (2014) imposes a duty on Local Authorities (LAs) to assess the needs of anyone who has an appearance of needing care and support. Due to limited resources, LAs struggle to complete the first stage of the assessment process. Despite a decrease since a pandemic-related high in April 2022, 430,000 people were on adult social care waiting lists (for assessments, care packages, personal budgets or reviews) in April 2023.

Completion of the care and support assessment does not guarantee the individual will receive care and support promptly: a recent study of 85 Councils found an average waiting time of 50 days for adult social care services.

The huge shortage of social care staff means that even where assessments have been carried out and funding is available, care may not be provided. A survey of Directors of Adult Social Care found that 564,584 hours of agreed social care provision for adults at home went undelivered in 2023 due to social care staff shortages.

Due to waiting lists, lack of provision and staff shortages, many people are still living without vital care and support services. In 2023 Age UK estimated that 1.6 million adults in England aged over 65 had unmet care and support needs.

The shortage of care staff and care home placements also puts a huge strain on the NHS. On any one day, 13,000 to 14,000 adults are “stranded” in hospital (up from 4,500 in 2018/19) because the care and support they require on discharge is not available. This leads to “bed blocking” in hospitals with beds not free for unwell people.

Unpaid carers are still filling the huge gaps in formal adult social care provision, leading to risks for both carers and those with care needs. Families continue to struggle to provide care and support without formal social care help. In 2023 73% of local authorities reported an increase in the breakdown of unpaid carer arrangements.

Carers UK estimates that there are approximately 5 million unpaid carers in England and Wales, saving the governments approximately £162bn per year.

Even more worryingly, in an aging population, 20% of unpaid carers are over 65 years old, increasing concerns about the viability and sustainability of care for those without formal care and support.

Further cuts

The perilous financial situation of major metropolitan Local Authorities such as Birmingham City Council means that even more cuts could be made to the budgets available to meet the care needs of the vulnerable and elderly. UK Local Authorities estimate that £467 million will be cut from social care budgets during 2024 so that councils can balance the books. Unison warns that some councils will not be able to offer the “legal minimum of care”.


Discontent with social care services is at all time high and complaints to the ombudsman are being upheld in record numbers.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman annual review of Adult Social Care Complaints 2022-23 found that 75% of 2230 investigations conducted were upheld (increase of 5%). 79% of complaints about social care charges were upheld (increase of 8%) and 78% of complaints about Direct Payments were upheld.

Budgets and the next election

Despite all this doom and gloom, the Care Act (2014) does have its heart in the right place and places a duty on Local Authorities to assess and meet the care and support needs of their residents.

Regardless of who wins the next election, the next government will face an immense challenge in building a care system that works for those in need, and actually living up to the lofty ideals of the Care Act (2014) would be a very good place to start.

Our Community Care Law team believe that waiting lists and staff shortages should not be allowed to detract from the core aim of the legislation, which is to ensure the wellbeing of adults with care and support needs through service provision to meet their eligible needs.

We hope that opposition parties will address this issue in their manifestos. Social care along with the NHS should be seen as an important service well worth fighting for.

For expert advice about social care funding and paying for care, contact our Community Care law team on 01273 609911, or email

Martin Searle Solicitors, 9 Marlborough Place, Brighton, BN1 1UB
T: 01273 609 991

Martin Searle Solicitors is the trading name of ms solicitors ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and is registered in England under company number 05067303.

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