More social workers needed to deal with hundreds of thousands more assessments, government confirms

Councils will need to recruit more adults’ social workers to deal with hundreds of thousands more assessments and reviews per year on the back of care funding reforms, the government has confirmed.

The additional assessments and reviews will be required from 2023-24 onwards when the government implements its cap on care costs and a more generous system of means-testing, bringing many more self-funders into local authority care and support.

In an impact assessment of the reforms published this week, the Department of Health and Social Care said it was working with the sector to understand how many additional practitioners would be required and how the impact of the reforms on the workforce could be mitigated.

But it stressed: “Additional social workers and back-office staff will…be required to meet an increased number of assessments.”

This reflects comments made previously by chief social worker for adults Lyn Romeo, while the DHSC has also confirmed that £500m allocated to the social care workforce from 2022-25 will be used, in part, to expand training routes into social work.

Increased demand

However, the impact assessment is the first quantification of the impact of the reforms on the demand for assessments, reviews and the case management of people needing care and support. This arises from:

  • The need to assess and determine eligibility for anyone wanting to benefit from the £86,000 cap on personal care costs, in order to quantify the cost to them of meeting their needs. This would need to be set out in an “independent personal budget”, which would have to be reviewed each year.
  • The increase in the upper capital limit for the social care means-test, making more people eligible for council-funded care.
  • The full implementation of section 18(3) of the Care Act 2014, meaning self-funders can request their local authority meets their needs in a care home, necessitating assessment, planning and review for them.

The reforms will be implemented in 2023-24, with the cap and more generous means-test coming into force in October of 2023. Councils will be able to carry out assessments for self-funders wanting to take advantage of the cap in the six months prior to implementation.

Additional assessments carried out in 2023-24 will be met from £168m that will be allocated to councils to help implement the reforms. Thereafter, the DHSC estimated, additional assessments, reviews and case management will cost between £160m and £180m a year, with the vast majority of the cost concerning people aged over 65.

Hundreds of thousands more assessments

For that group, the impact assessment said that about 140,000 additional self-funders would require a review of their needs each year from 2024-25, with an average of 1.2 reviews carried out per person per year.

At the same time, a similar number of new self-funders would be assessed each year to be considered for the cap. The DHSC said it estimated 80% of eligible self-funders would come forward each year to be assessed, but an additional 16% of this total who were ineligible would also come forward and require an assessment.

Finally, 14-15,000 self-funders aged over 65 who needed “high-intensity domiciliary care” would receive case management support from local authority adults’ services.

Among those aged under 65, roughly 4,000 additional people would need assessment each year, with 17-19,000 needing review.