British Social Attitudes: Survey reveals record level of dissatisfaction with social care services

New analysis by the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund shows only 14% of the British public are satisfied with social care services.

Press release

Published: 26/03/2023

Only one in seven of the British public are satisfied with social care services, according to analysis of the British Social Attitudes survey by the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund. 

The analysis from the two health and care think tanks reveals that just 14% of the 3,362 people questioned said they were very or quite satisfied with social care. Of these, only 2% were very satisfied. On the other hand, dissatisfaction rose significantly to 57% of respondents (up from 50% in the previous year) and reached its highest level recorded.

These findings show that dissatisfaction has been growing since 2018 and more people have been dissatisfied than satisfied with social care since 2014.

People not getting all the social care they need was the most common reason for dissatisfaction with nearly two thirds (64%) of respondents choosing this option. Respondents were also dissatisfied with social care because of inadequate pay, working conditions and training of social care workers (57%), the lack of support for unpaid carers (49%), while 39% said social care is not affordable to those who need it. 

Contact with social care leads to higher levels of dissatisfaction. Two-thirds of people who have used or had contact with social care either for themselves or for someone else were dissatisfied with it. This is 20 percentage points higher than people who have not had contact.

This high level of dissatisfaction was seen across ages, income groups, sexes and political affiliations. Older people (over the age of 65), and those on higher incomes were the most dissatisfied.

The social care findings of the survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) in September and October 2022, have been released ahead of the full health and care report later this week. The survey is a gold standard measurement of public satisfaction.

Report author and Nuffield Trust Researcher Laura Schlepper said:

“This year we boosted the number of people asked about their levels of satisfaction with social care services and the results are troubling. Social care services are a lifeline and vital service to help people lead the lives they want to, yet only 14% of the British public are satisfied.

“The reasons behind plummeting and record-low satisfaction appear to be the product of decades of woeful neglect. Broken, complicated and fragmented services, demoralised staff in short supply and the increasing strain on friends, family, and informal carers to pick up the pieces all create a sobering reality. These results are yet another reason for politicians to replace words with action on social care reform.”

Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund said:

“Satisfaction with social care services has been falling for some time, but these latest findings represent a record low. The strength of dissatisfaction the British public now feel is a clear reflection of the failure of successive governments to prioritise this vital service and a stubborn unwillingness to tackle deep rooted challenges in our social care system. The public, rightly, recognise the large number of people whose needs for care and support are not being met, and the lack of appropriate reward, recognition and support for social care staff.

“Against this background, it is very disappointing that the current government’s planned social care reforms have been watered down or delayed. We can expect dissatisfaction to rise further still if social care provision continues to decline, with people who draw on care and support, their carers and those working in the sector feeling the pain of this.”

Notes to editors

  • The most recent survey was carried out between 7 September and 30 October 2022 and asked a nationally representative sample (across England, Scotland and Wales) of 3,362 people about their satisfaction with the National Health Service (NHS) and social care services overall.
  • This year (2022 survey) we increased the sample size for the question on overall satisfaction with social care to 3,362 to match the overall NHS satisfaction question.
  • The question asked to determine overall satisfaction or dissatisfaction with social care services in 2021 and 2022 was ‘From your own experience, or from what you have heard, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with social care for people who cannot look after themselves because of illness, disability or old age?’. Respondents were asked to choose one answer from ‘very satisfied’, ‘quite satisfied’, ‘neither satisfied or dissatisfied’, ‘quite dissatisfied’, ‘very dissatisfied’ or ‘don’t know’.
  • Before 2021 the survey focused on perceptions of service provided by local authorities as opposed to all social care services.
  • The King’s Fund and The Nuffield Trust sponsor health and social care questions of the National Centre for Social Research’s (NatCen) British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey and summarise the headline health results. NatCen will publish further results from the BSA in the autumn.
  • The full report which includes findings on satisfaction with the NHS will be published later this week (week commencing 27/03/23).
  • The analysis of the BSA health results was carried out by Mark Dayan, Dan Wellings, Jessica Morris, Danielle Jefferies, Laura Schlepper and David Maguire.

About the Nuffield Trust

The Nuffield Trust is an independent think tank aiming to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis.

About the King’s Fund:

The King’s Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England.

About The National Centre for Social Research:

The National Centre for Social Research, Britain's largest independent social research organisation, aims to make life better through high-quality social research.