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A clearer picture of the demands being placed on social care services in England has emerged with the publication of detailed new data. 

Compiled by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC)** and covering short and long term social care, it provides an in-depth breakdown of the changing social care landscape and the challenges faced in social care provision across the country. 

Yet the depth of the statistics also offers the opportunity to deliver more informed decision-making, which may influence and shape the future roles of social workers and the way they work.

5,000 new adult social care support requests each day

The information, contained in the Community Care Statistics: Social Services Activity, England 2014-15, showed that during the 12-month period 1,846,000 requests were actioned by councils for adult social care support for new clients, averaging 5,000 a day.

The data has been gleaned from the Short and Long Term Services (SALT) collection which replaced the Referrals, Assessments and Packages of Care (RAP) return and the Adult Social Care Combined Activity Return (ASC-CAR).

Of the 1,846,000 actioned requests for new clients:
*72% (1,327,000) related to adults aged 65 and over;
*28% (519,000) related to clients aged 18-64; 
*31% (575,000) resulted in the client being given a “universal service” (any service or support for which there is no test of eligibility and no requirement for review), or were “signposted to other support” (where the client will not be supported by the local authority and there is no universal service which will help them).
*28% (520,000) had an outcome of “no services provided”;
*16% (304,000) saw ongoing low-level support provided;
*12% (218,000) had short-term support provided to maximise independence;
*8% (144,000) had an outcome of long-term support.

Impact on local authorities 

Councils have been recognised for the effort that has gone into making the data available and the figures are expected to play an important role in the quality of decision making in social care provision, both locally and nationally. 

After all, the new HSCIC data is among the most comprehensive available and the level of detail and the breakdown it offers is a critical component in highlighting the primary reasons why people need support.

In fact, the HSCIC suggest that the findings will assist local authorities in a number of ways: enabling the sharing of best practice; delivering a better understanding of the views of users and carers; and providing data that will facilitate better benchmarking between councils.

Short-term support

There were 254,000 completed instances of adults receiving short-term support to maximise independence during the year, with 29,000 clients receiving this form of support at the year-end on 31 March 2015. The most common reason given was personal care (178,000/70%) and following support, 26% (65,000) went on to receive long-term care, of which 93% (60,000) was delivered in the community. 

Long-term support and service user insights

The data also showed that 890,000 adults received long-term support from local authorities at some point in 2014-15. Of these, 74% (659,000) were receiving this support at the year-end, with 485,000 having been a recipient for more than a year. 

We were intrigued to read about the views of service users themselves, in a separate report published at the same time by HSCIC. 

The HSCIC’s Personal Social Services Adult Social Care Survey examines the impact long term social care services have on the quality of life of those receiving care, having gathered the views from 69,510 service users. 

Obtained from questionnaires issued by Councils with Adult Social Services Responsibilities (CASSRs) during Jan-Mar 2015, the findings are encouraging, giving the increasing demands being placed on adult social care services. 

When asked ‘overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the care and support services you receive?’, 65% reported feeling either ‘extremely satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’, 26% ‘quite satisfied’, 6% were neither satisfied or dissatisfied and 4% reported feeling either ‘quite’ or ‘extremely dissatisfied’. 

Most importantly, when asked how they feel about their quality of life, 31% said ‘so good, it could not be better’, or ‘very good’. 32% said ‘good’ and 28% reported that it was ‘alright’, compared to nine% who said it ‘bad’. 

Furthermore, when asked whether care and support services helped them feel safe, 85% of respondents said 'yes', and 15% said 'no'.

Helping shape the future of social care

It’ll be interesting then, to see how the HSCIC’s quantitative and qualitative data will inform national and local plans to meet the increasing demand from adults requiring social care support. As Chris Buttery, a HSCIC statistician said: “These data give us more information about the national social care landscape than was available previously. Councils have worked hard to provide the new data, which will be of use for decision making both locally and nationally." 

**The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1, 2013, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 260 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.

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