Social services directors said local council services were reeling from a staffing crisis at the start of the year caused by a combination of the omicron variant and long-standing recruitment and retention problems.
While the impact of the omicron variant is now subsiding, local authority social care services are unlikely to have recovered fully from what directors described in January as a “national crisis.”
In a survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) 49 out of the 94 councils responding said that they were taking exceptional measures to deal with the situation.
Directors said that they were having to prioritise life-sustaining care such as supporting someone to eat over other vital care needs such as helping someone to get out of bed, while people with dementia were left isolated or alone for longer periods than usual.
“These drastic measures must not become the norm,” ADASS said. “Social care already faced a dire situation before the pandemic with 100,000 vacancies and staff leaving for better pay in shops and bars.
Norfolk social care director James Bullion told the BBC that staff sickness because of Omicron had put the system under “critical pressure” for several weeks. “I’ve never seen pressure this big. It’s a really critical and risky moment for us,” he said.