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BUDGET 2021: ‘A missed opportunity’ for social care, say leaders

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Care providers, charities and representative bodies have expressed shock and disappointment after yesterday’s Budget failed to mention social care, describing the announcement as a “missed opportunity”.  

Leaders in the sector said that whilst there were some welcome policies in the Budget that may have some “tangible impacts” on employment and investment, the urgent need for emergency and long-term funding for social care was “ignored”.

Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green said Rishi Sunak’s Budget failed to show support for the existing and potential role which the adult social care sector plays as a valuable employer, comparable to the size of the NHS, in the UK’s job market.

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He added: “A ten year plan akin to that of the NHS backed by £7 billion injection into the adult social care would have been a great help to the sector, a sector which is a big part of the national infrastructure.  Care England will continue to put forward the sector’s case and remind the Prime Minister of his commitment to reforming the sector.”

Right at Home CEO Ken Deary said: “It’s very disappointing to hear social care has once again been overlooked in the Spring Budget. Social care reform has been promised for several years now and if the pandemic has taught us anything about the sector, it’s the importance of the role it plays in our local communities.

“Social care does a fantastic job to support our NHS, by assisting people to stay safe where they might otherwise need hospital care. We saw the public’s perception of social care change over the summer and there was a much greater appreciation for the role of CareGivers. This makes it all the more disappointing that the sector has been ignored once again today.”

The Chancellor’s Budget was described as a “lost opportunity for reform” by both Independent Care Group (ICG) chair Mike Padgham and Kirsty Matthews, chief executive of Hft, the national charity supporting adults with learning disabilities.

“We were looking for an indication that this Government and this Chancellor are serious about the long-term reform of social care, but we have been left wanting yet again,” Padgham said.

Matthews agreed, adding: “It is highly disappointing that the government has failed to yet again offer any kind of additional financial support to social care in today’s Budget announcement. This is even more of a shock coming as it does at the end  of an extraordinarily challenging year, which has seen social care staff working tirelessly on the frontline throughout the pandemic to support some of our most vulnerable adults in society.

“Today’s budget marks another missed opportunity to address the financial challenges the sector has been facing for many years, including the continued underfunding of increases to the National Living Wage which impacts on all providers’ ability to recruit and retain these key members of staff. We urge the government to take action now and recognise the efforts of a sector all too often considered an afterthought.”

United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) said Sunak’s announcement that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended until September is “welcomed”, as a small proportion of the home care workforce will be supported if their personal circumstances prevent them from working.

However, UKHCA’s Policy Director, Colin Angel, said: “This Budget offered no indication about the long-term solution to the funding of adult social care, despite this having been a commitment made by the Prime Minister on his first day in office.

“Local councils, which purchase the majority of homecare in England, will continue to remain underfunded and expect their care budget short-falls to be met by independent and voluntary sector providers and the public.  Councils are increasingly likely to adopt inappropriate commissioning practices, including buying care by the minute at unsustainable rates which do not meet providers’ costs and do nothing to improve the terms and conditions available to the social care workforce.”

UKHCA continues to call on government to bring forward the long-awaited reform of adult social care, building on its recent White Paper.

It said that although the White Paper signals an improved level of accountability for councils and the NHS and a new assurance framework allowing greater oversight of local authority arrangements for social care, it does not in itself provide a vision for, or solve long term funding in the sector.

Angel concluded: “This Budget therefore represents another delay in providing a social care system fit for the future.”

Vic Rayner, chief executive of the National Care Forum said: “There is nothing in this budget for social care. Nothing that acknowledges the massive financial challenges affecting social care provision. No recognition of the importance of investing in services that operate at a local level, employ local people and support the most vulnerable members of communities. Not even an acknowledgement of the incredible dedication and commitment of the social care workforce.”

Rayner pointed out that all ring-fenced emergency funding for social care during the pandemic will come to a halt on March 31, and this needs to be addressed.

“Urgent action is required to address these short term financial holes in the budget and the government must immediately outline the detailed timescale for the full scale reform of social care,” she said.

“Meanwhile, social care will take a deep breath once again and look hard at all the announcements around developing the workforce, apprenticeships and investing in technology, to see how they can be fully embraced by those receiving care and the workforce that supports them.”

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Sarah Clarke

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