Over one million disabled adults without support is ‘national scandal’ in social care

2 November 2016

  • 48% of disabled adults who say they need social care do not receive any support at all
  • thousands are trapped at home, isolated and unemployed
  • Leonard Cheshire Disability is calling for a national commission on the future of health and social care

Leading UK charity Leonard Cheshire Disability has found 48% of disabled adults in Great Britain who say they need social care are not currently receiving any support[1], leaving thousands of people without vital help to get around their homes and out into their communities[2].

The charity says this is a ‘national scandal’ and a lack of social care is having a devastating impact on disabled people.

In its new report The state of social care in Great Britain in 2016, Leonard Cheshire Disability found:

  • half (50%) of disabled adults who say they do not receive enough social care report being unable to work[3]
  • two in five (40%) feel isolated or lonely[4]
  • over half (56%) of those who do not receive enough support maintaining social and community links are unable to leave home when they would like at least once a week[5]
  • One in 11 (9%) say they have spent more time in hospital due to ill health as a result of a lack of social care[6]

The charity estimates as many as 2.7 million working age disabled adults in Great Britain could need social care to live independently, and well over one million may not currently be getting enough support to do this.

Human cost

Since November 2015, Lynne Noble, 63, from West Yorkshire has been waiting to be given the right care from her local council so she can remain independent. Lynne has cerebral palsy and was diagnosed with MS in 1994.

She said: ‘It had gotten to the point where my husband was caring for me nearly 24/7 and I realised that it would be selfish not to ask for help. I have spent a great deal of time and money trying to sort out my social care package, which would have been better spent helping to improve my quality of life.’

Council funding cuts mean 30-year-old Julie Sharp and her husband Sam, from West Yorkshire, have no emergency care provision and can be left for days without support if their carers don’t show up.

Julie said:

‘Many times we have both gone to medical appointments in our night clothes because, although patient transport has turned up, we have had a break down in our personal care, and our local council no longer provides emergency care.’

‘We no longer seem to matter to adult social care and it does not matter to them if we go without medication, food, drinks, a change of clothes or showers, all because we chose the direct payments option.’

The case for action is clear

The evidence is mounting for urgent action. In England, over 400,000 fewer people are now receiving social care compared to 2009[7].

This is against a backdrop of 1.4 million more working age disabled adults compared to 2010[8].

Public opinion polling by Leonard Cheshire Disability suggests social care is important to the British public:

  • 78% of people believe so
  • over half (53%) think social care is not working well for disabled and older people
  • two thirds (66%) think the government do not spend enough money on social care for disabled and older people[9]

In response, the charity is urging the government to rapidly restore the social care safety net which allows millions of disabled people to live and work with independence and dignity by calling for:

  • a national commission to plan how we will meet the growing demand for dignified, person-centered social care, and how this will be funded
  • funding earmarked for social care under the Better Care Fund in 2019/20 brought forward in the upcoming Autumn Statement to alleviate the huge pressure facing the social care system now 

Leonard Cheshire Disability’s chief executive Neil Heslop said:

‘It is a national scandal that thousands of disabled and older people do not have the support to do everyday tasks such as washing and dressing, and even more shockingly, no support to eat.

‘A lack of social care creates a perfect storm of problems that significantly reduces the life chances of disabled people.

‘The right social care allows people to stay well, be independent, get jobs, volunteer, have relationships and contribute fully to society.

‘But as our research shows, dignified everyday care is simply not available to many people, and that is unacceptable.’

Media enquiries

Email Afsheen Latif or call 020 3242 0389, out of hours 07903 949 388

Notes to editors

Research methodology

In order to understand more about disabled people’s experience of social care, we worked with ComRes to survey 1,032 British disabled adults online between the ages of 18 and 65 between 28 April and 10 May 2016. 

In addition, we worked with YouGov to survey 1,704 British adults about their views on health and social care in Britain. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11-12 August 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Extrapolation of polling results is based on data from the Office for National Statistics Mid-2015 Population Estimates for England, Wales and Scotland (39,284,765 people aged 18-65 in Great Britain), and the Department for Work & Pensions Family Resources Survey 2014/15 (17% working age adults in Great Britain are disabled). Based on this data there are 6.8 million disabled adults age 18-65 in Great Britain.

We also conducted focus groups and one to one interviews with 89 disabled people in England, Wales and Scotland to understand people’s lived experience of social care.

About Leonard Cheshire Disability

Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Our services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Worldwide, our global alliance of Cheshire partners supports disabled people into education and employment, and works in more than 50 countries. With over 7,500 staff, the charity supports over 7,000 disabled people in the UK.


  1. ComRes polling. Base (British adults aged 18-65 who need social care in at least one area: n=428) — 48% reported that currently receive no social care support at all. 
  2. Extrapolation is based on data from the Office for National Statistics Mid-2015 Population Estimates for England, Wales and Scotland and the Department for Work and Pensions Family Resources Survey 2014/15.
  3. ComRes polling. Base (British adults aged 18-65 who reported that they do not receive enough social care support): 299.
  4. ComRes polling. Base (British adults aged 18-65 who reported that they do not receive enough social care support): 299.
  5. ComRes polling. Base (British adults aged 18-65 who reported that they do not receive sufficient support in maintaining social and community links): 147.
  6. ComRes polling. Base (British adults aged 18-65 who reported that they do not receive enough social care support): 299.
  7. NHS Digital, Community Care Statistics, 2013/14. The total number of people receiving services in 2013-14 was 1,273,000 (down 29 per cent from 1,782,000 in 2008-09). 
  8. The number of working age disabled adults increased by 26% between 2010/11 and 2015/16 from 5.4 – 6.8 million (Family resources survey). 
  9. YouGov polling.