Banner image showing examples of social care in action in Swindon

What is social care and who needs it in Swindon?

The cost of providing social care for adults and children across Swindon makes up around 80% of the council’s annual budget.

But do you fully understand what's meant by social care and the circumstances where residents need it? These pages will put you in the picture.

Overview of social care: what it is and why it’s important

Most people may understandably give little or no thought to what care and support they may need in life, until they reach the point where they – or someone they know - needs it. You may have read or heard in the media about the ‘rising costs of social care’ but not really be clear on what lies behind the headlines:

  • What exactly is ‘social care’?
  • Who provides it?
  • What role do local authorities play?
  • Why are the costs of social care rising?

Residents are often surprised to learn that the costs of providing social care for adults and children across Swindon make up around 80% of the council’s annual budget. Yet for the majority of residents who don’t use these services themselves, they may have little understanding of what these look like in practice and how they provide a lifeline to others in the community.

Social care is at the heart of our community, providing support to those who need it so that as many people as possible can live the life they want to lead. It matters to everybody, yet peoples’ experiences of social care – either those who rely on formal care and support, their families, unpaid carers or the social care workforce – can vary widely. Social care is difficult to define because the term covers a huge range of different activities, from child protection to end-of-life care.

Adult social care funding has been under pressure for several years. Factors that have contributed to this include:

  • Demographic pressures: the number of older people (the group most likely to need social care) is rising faster than the population as a whole. There is also increased demand for care from working age adults (those aged 18 to 64) who are living with a disability or physical or mental illness
  • Pressures on local government finances: the National Audit Office has estimated that local government spending power (government funding, council tax and business rates) reduced by 29% in real-terms between 2010/11 and 2021/22. While we have made some savings, there may be reduced space for savings in the future
  • Increases in the National Living Wage: it is estimated that the increase in the national Living Wage in April 2021 would cost councils around £494 million
  • The COVID-19 pandemic: there are concerns the pandemic could compound long-term funding pressures

Advances in health and social care enable people to live longer and fuller lives. Between 2018 and 2040, the number of adults aged 85 and over is projected to increase by a further 77% (from 1.4 million to 2.4 million). Among younger age groups too, we are seeing continuing progress in terms of better diagnosis and longer life expectancies - this means that demand for adult social care is growing as the numbers of older people and of those with long-term conditions, learning disabilities and mental health conditions, increase.

Children’s social care spending was already rising rapidly before the pandemic, owing to growing numbers of children who require intensive support. Across England, the number and proportion of looked after children has been rising year on year for over a decade. In 2009/10, 64,470 children were in care, or 57 in every 100,000. In 2019/20, that figure was 80,080 or 67 in every 100,000.

Local authorities, such as Swindon Borough Council, have a legal duty to provide services, such as support for disabled children, protecting children from harm and taking responsibility for ‘looked-after children’, including through foster and residential care placements. Although the number of children supported is small, specialist children’s social care is vital to ensure their safety and to help them live their best life. We listen to feedback from children and carers to continue to develop our services.

 Swindon social workers talking to a person in need of care

An adult interacting with a child on their lap