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Do disabled people have enough choice and control in social care?

The NHS published its latest statistics on social care this month, which showed improvements in many areas for disabled social care users. But dig a little deeper into the data, and you’ll find that there is still room for improvement, with many people reporting they need more choice and control in their lives.

There is a general rule at the moment in social care that things are not going so well for the people who use this essential service. Research Scope undertook, for example, found more than 50 per cent of participants felt social care does not support working age disabled people to live independently, and in separate research on integrated care we found this system needs to get better at taking into account the needs of working age disabled people at the planning and delivery stages so it can work for all social care users, not primarily for those over 65.

We know that a significant proportion of young disabled people – those between ages 17 and 30 – can suffer ‘significant setbacks’ as a result of inadequate care, which includes not getting the care they need for extended periods, or finding it difficult to access employment. So with this year’s latest survey results on social care user’s perceptions of the service published two weeks ago, are things getting better? Perhaps.

What we found

Every year NHS Digital brings out its Personal Social Services Adult Social Care Survey. The survey asks around 70,000 social care users what their views are on a number of aspects of the service, of which approximately 97.5 per cent identified a condition or impairment as their prime reason for needing social care. We drew our findings from this group.

What we found from our research is that broadly speaking, many disabled social care users see the system as delivering a decent standard of care. That care supports them to have more control over their lives, as well interact with others socially (which many who don’t rely on social care support take for granted).

When asked whether care helps them to have a better quality of life, a staggering 92 per cent said yes. And over 60 per cent said they felt very good or good about their life at the moment. Few would say these aren’t top marks for social care’s score card.

Digging a little deeper

It’s only when you dig a bit deeper into the data that more still needs to be done to improve outcomes for disabled social care users. On questions about choice and control, a significant proportion (34 per cent) reported as having as much choice and control over their lives as they wanted, and 90 per cent said care and support services help disabled people to have control over their daily life. This still leaves two thirds (66 per cent) of respondents who felt they could have more control over their lives, and 6 per cent having no control over their daily life.

On social contact, levels are good but there is room for improvement. Generally respondents said that they had as much social contact as they want (45 per cent). But for 32 per cent of respondents, the amount of social contact they had was just “adequate”, meaning for some there is a need for improvement, and the remaining 22 per cent said they were not getting enough or felt socially isolated.

What next?

It is really promising to see progress is being made and satisfaction is on the up in some areas of social care. Central government and local authorities still have some work to do to drive those numbers up across the board, and we recognise this starts by increasing funding into social care in order to make the good intentions of the Care Act achievable.

Later this year, we will publish a report on young disabled people’s experiences of using support services to live independently. Read more about our work on social care on our website.