Unmet social care needs and well-being

This independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research explores the issue of unmet need for social care among older people

Unmet social care needs and well-being

There are increasing pressures on demand for and supply of help and support for older people who have difficulties with the activities needed for independent living. The Care Act 2014 places new responsibilities on local authorities to assess the needs of unpaid carers, to prevent the development of needs and to ensure the maintenance of well-being in service users and carers.

This research explores the issue of unmet need:

  • the nature of unmet need for social care among older people and how it can be measured;
  • the prevalence of unmet need for social care in England;
  • the factors which predict an individual developing unmet social care needs over a ten year period; and
  • the links between unmet need for social care and well-being.

The project involves two stages:

  • Secondary analysis of HSE and ELSA data which is published here:
  • 24 in-depth narrative interviews with older people with care needs during spring 2017
    • Download the main final report (PDF).  This includes detailed findings from the qualitative research and the overall conclusions of the project.

The research is based on two definitions of unmet need. The first looks at people with needs which would be considered as qualifying for local authority support under the Care Act 2014. The second looks at a wider definition in order to understand how less severe needs may go unmet. Our key findings are that unmet need is an issue affecting older people across all groups, including those eligible for local authority financial support and self-funders. Those in their 50s and 60s, living alone or experiencing widowhood were most likely to have future care needs unmet. There were no clear links between unmet need and well-being, perhaps because receiving care has both positive and negative impacts on well-being.

This project is independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) (Grant: C088/T14-035/IMMB-P66). The views expressed in here are those of the researchers involved and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

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