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  • NEW TUC REPORT sets out how to fix social care for good  

  • As the UK faces mass unemployment after the pandemic, social care could be a major source of new decent jobs, says TUC  

Annual adult social care spending in England is still £600m lower than in 2010, according to new analysis published today (Monday) by the TUC. 

The analysis finds that in 112 of the 150 responsible local authorities, social care spending per head of the population is still below 2010. 

Spending per head is 8% below the level in 2010 for England overall. And regional reductions range from 18% in London, to 5% in the South East, East Midlands and East of England. 

Fixing social care for better services and a stronger recovery 

In his first speech as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson promised to ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all’. But he’s still not set out any plans. 

Today’s TUC report, Fixing social care: better quality services and jobs, sets out why the UK does not have a high-quality social care system, and how to improve it for those who use it, and those who work in it.  

Social care in England has insufficient funding to meet demand, forcing councils to tighten eligibility and people to rely on informal care from family and friends. And it will be unable to meet future demand from a 49% increase in those aged 65+ by 2040.  

Most care homes are run privately for profit. This directs public funds away from service users and squeezes pay and conditions for staff. Almost a quarter of social care staff have a zero-hours contract and 7 in 10 are paid less than £10 per hour. The sector has around 120,000 unfilled vacancies and an annual staff turnover rate of 31%. 

The report calls for: 

  • A new funding settlement: This year’s spending review should fully offset the cuts of the previous decade and establish future rises at a level that will allow local authorities to meet rising demand and improve pay and conditions for staff. 

  • Immediate funding to fill all social care vacancies: In a time of rising unemployment, social care could provide a steady source of new decent jobs. The government could act now to unlock 120,000 existing vacancies, to help those losing their jobs.  

  • Fair pay and conditions for care workers: To provide sustainable livelihoods and an attractive career, all social care workers must get a sector minimum wage of at least £10 per hour. There must be an end to the zero-hours contracts, and poor or non-existent sick pay that put social care workers at risk during the pandemic. And all social care workers must have guaranteed opportunities for training and progression. 

  • A national Social Care Forum: A new body is needed to bring together government, unions, employers, commissioners and providers to coordinate the delivery and development of services, including the negotiation of a workforce strategy. 

  • A reduced private sector role: The government should strengthen rules to prevent financial extraction in the care sector and should phase out the for-profit model of delivery, so that all public funding is used to deliver high-quality services with fair pay and conditions for staff. 

  • A universal service free at the point of use: The changes above can be made quickly. Longer-term, the government should make social care a universal service, paid for through general taxation to ensure high-quality social care can be quickly accessed by everyone who needs it, in every part of England, without any variation in cost and qualifying rules. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  

“When the country needed them, social care workers stepped up. Care workers looked after older and disabled people in the midst of a pandemic, often without the right PPE, and often for low wages and no sick pay.   

“Now it’s time to fix the broken system. Social care is badly underfunded. Pay and conditions for care workers are dreadful. And families can’t be sure of high-quality, affordable care when a family member needs it. 

“As we face mass unemployment, ministers should act to unlock the 120,000 existing social care vacancies right now. And they should put investment in social care at the heart of our national recovery plan. 

“Social care jobs should be decent jobs on fair pay, at the heart of every community. The TUC’s plan sets out how a full funding settlement for social care would work. Ministers can’t spend another decade hiding from the social care crisis.”  

Editors note

New TUC report: The full report Fixing social care: better quality services and jobs is here: 

Change in social care expenditure by English region, 2010/11 to 2018/19 

English region 

Change in social care expenditure 2010/11 to 2018/19 


£ thousands 


Spend per capita 


Spend per capita  






South East 





South West 





Yorks & Humber 





West Midlands 





East Midlands 





North West 





North East 





East of England 










Methodology: Social care services in England are the responsibility of 150 unitary authorities, metropolitan districts and London boroughs. Our figures for adult social care expenditure 2010-18 come from TUC analysis of spending reported by councils. The data used is provided by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Local authority revenue expenditure and financing). We have included NHS cash transfers to local authority social care budgets through Valuing People Now in 2010/11 and the Better Care Fund in 2018/19. Spending figures for 2010/11 have been adjusted to 2018/19 prices based on CPI. A more detailed note on the methodology with links to source data can be provided by the TUC press office on request.  

- Social care cuts by local authority: The TUC is also distributing a set of regional press releases for each English region. These include figures for each local authority. This more detailed data can also be provided to national journalists on request. 

Variation between local authorities: Variation in changes to social care spending across local authorities results from differences in distribution of cuts to council funding and access to ring-fenced funding sources; population changes; social care demand (the result of economic, social and demographic factors); and policy decisions and priorities. 

Cuts to local government funding: Social care funding fell year-on-year in real terms between 2011/12 and 2015/16, as a result of central government cuts to local government funding.  

Previous research by the TUC found that councils in England had £7.8bn a year less to spend on key services in 2018/19, including social care, compared to 2010. Despite councils’ efforts to protect social care within overall budgets, they have been forced to pass cuts on to social care.  

Adult social care spending in England started to rise again from 2016/17 due to a series of short-term, ring-fenced targeted funding boosts, including an improved Better Care Fund and extension of the social care precept.  

However, today’s research shows that these additions have not been enough to restore funding to 2010 levels, let alone meet additional demand arising from an ageing population.  

Details of the previously published TUC analysis showing that councils in England had £7.8bn a year less to spend on key services in 2018/19, including social care, compared to 2010 are here: 

Prime Minister’s social care promise: On 24 July 2019, delivering his first speech as Prime Minister outside 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson said:  

“My job is to protect you, or your parents, or grandparents, from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care. We will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.” 

However, despite stating a clear plan had been prepared, a year later no plan has been announced, let alone put in action. 

England only: Social care funding, service delivery, and qualification criteria for users are different in Wales and Scotland. The analysis, report and the TUC’s comments therefore apply to England only. 

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