General Election 2024: What needs to change in social care

Our social care system is in crisis. This UK General Election is an opportunity to change that. 

A woman assists another woman in an arts and crafts activity.

Sense’s plan for change

Sense doesn’t support any political party. Our priority for this General Election is to make sure that disabled people, including the 1.6 million people with complex disabilities, are at the heart of what the next government does.

That’s why we’ve published our plan for change, outlining the seven key changes the next UK government needs to make for disabled people.

A quarter of people with complex disabilities that we surveyed receive social care, but one in five don’t feel that they have the right support to meet their needs.

This is a problem that’s only getting worse. Sense research found that a quarter of people with complex disabilities who receive social care had their support slashed in the last year.

The next UK government needs to change this.

This is what we believe the next UK government must urgently do to fix the social care crisis. 

1. Don’t leave disabled people out of the social care conversation

Debates about social care reform often focus on the needs of elderly people. But many disabled people also need care.

In fact, a quarter of people with complex disabilities receive social care.

Some disabled people get visits from care workers in their own homes, while others live in supported living or in full-time residential care.  

Good social care should not only meet basic needs, like supporting someone with washing or preparing basic meals, but also allow people to live meaningful lives.

It should give people with complex disabilities the ability to communicate, take part in their communities and make choices about their lives.

It’s vital that the next government announces a plan for social care reform that makes sure every disabled person can access the care they need.

2. Make sure there is enough money to fund quality care

Right now, there isn’t enough money in the pot for social care. The budgets of local authorities, who are responsible for social care, are stretched to breaking point. 

This means that fewer disabled people are getting the support they need to lead independent and meaningful lives.

We want the next UK government to set out a 10-year funding plan for adult social care, to provide the quality care that disabled people need. 

We’re also calling for the next government to close the £500million funding gap in children’s social care services. No disabled child child should be going without support.

3. Improve pay and conditions for care workers

“Sense research has shown that a third of people with complex disabilities who receive social care have been impacted by a lack of care staff.”

One of the key reasons why people are missing out on care is staff shortages.

Sense’s research has shown that a third of people with complex disabilities who receive social care have been impacted by a lack of care staff.

A lack of funding for social care has meant that providers haven’t been able to pay workers well.

This has led to many care workers leaving their jobs for roles in the NHS, or in unrelated sectors like retail, for better pay and opportunities. 

The next government must make a plan to tackle this problem, making sure that care workers get the pay and support they deserve to stay in the sector. 

4. Bring home disabled people living in hospitals 

There are over 2,000 people living in hospitals because they are autistic or have learning disabilities, according to NHS figures from January 2024

This isn’t right. A hospital is not a home. 

The next UK government must prioritise giving these people the support they need to live in their communities. 

5. Simplify the law around children’s social care

The law surrounding disabled children’s social care is too complicated. Many families find it tricky to understand what support their child is entitled to.

Families should know their rights, and local authorities should know what is legally required of them. 

Under the current system, there is too much variation between different regions of the UK, as laws are interpreted differently in different areas.

The next government must simplify the legal framework for disabled children’s social care, allowing families to access the support they need.

6. Give carers of disabled children a break

“Right now, more than 65% of carers cay they are burnt out or exhausted. Two thirds of parents of children with complex disabilities say they can’t access the short breaks they need from caring.”

Carers of disabled children do an incredible job, but providing round-the-clock care without any breaks is exhausting.

Right now, more than 65% of carers say they are burnt out or exhausted. Two thirds of parents of children with complex disabilities say they can’t access the short breaks they need from caring.

The next UK government must recognise the importance of respite care.

This means making sure that carers of disabled children across the UK are able to access short breaks via their local authorities. 

Read our plan for change

We have seven key recommendations to make sure the next UK government prioritises disabled people.