Social care leaders have expressed “dismay” over the government’s failure to address the need for social care refinancing and reform in its Spring Budget.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £5bn in funding for the NHS and “other public services” to fight the coronavirus, but said the “big issues”, including social care and the national infrastructure strategy, will be tackled “over the next few months”.
Care leaders had hoped that the government would use the Budget as an opportunity to “bring about real change” in social care, but have been left disappointed over the sector’s “glaring” omission from the chancellor’s speech.
Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at The King’s Fund said: “It is hugely disappointing that this Budget does not include an emergency cash injection to help local government to address social care needs beyond coronavirus”.
Colin Angel, Policy Director at United Kingdom Homecare Association said: “The commitment of additional funding for social care to tackle the growing concerns around coronavirus are welcome. However, the glaring omission of additional funding, beyond funding already announced for social care, is hugely disappointing.
“Over 1.5m people are not getting the support they need. The £1bn for existing adult and children’s social care for councils in England, promised by the previous Chancellor, is a long way short of what is needed to ensure people’s needs are fully met. Councils need to ensure that what funding there is available reaches frontline services.”
Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum (NCF), also welcomed the £5bn pledge to tackle the coronavirus, but added that the government has failed to recognise that “swift action” is urgently needed to fix the social care crisis.
“NCF continues to call for a reform agenda which looks ahead to determine a social care system that addresses both the current short fall, and presents a clear and coherent narrative to develop a system that will address future care needs for generations to come. This is the number one domestic reform priority for government and it must not be overlooked. The government needs to hear the message loud and clear that social care matters to us all,” she added.
The Chancellor repeatedly said the Budget proves the government “will get things done”, but the Independent Care Group says the Conservatives have failed to get “social care done”, despite promising to tackle the crisis in the system.
The Group’s Chair, Mike Padgham, said: “There was a lot to welcome in the budget: extra funding for the NHS, support for small businesses and a lot to help the economy during the coronavirus outbreak.
“But this was also, an opportunity missed by the Chancellor and the Government to begin tackling the ongoing crisis in social care. Some 1.5m people aren’t getting the care they need and we have been promised measures now for years, but nothing is changing.
“To be able to cope with coronavirus, support for the NHS has to be matched by support for social care – an argument we have been making for years.
“Sadly, in only promising to tackle social care “in the next few months”, the government is failing in its pledge to tackle this crisis and get it done.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Given the threat posed by the coronavirus we understand why the Chancellor decided to prioritise strengthening our national resilience and we are pleased that the NHS and social care are both in the mix for extra emergency funding if required. We also note the fact that the refinancing and reform of our social care system seems to have been passed over yet again, making us worry that by the time the Government decides on what it wants to do to ‘fix social care’, as it has promised, there may not be the funds left to do all that needs to be done.”
“After so many disappointments there’s bound to be a concern that social care is destined to be always the bridesmaid and never the bride, and unfortunately today’s Budget did nothing to alleviate our anxiety.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced earlier this week that he has written to MPs to initiate cross-party talks on social care in England.
In letter shared on Twitter, he called on his colleagues to write to him with their “proposed solutions and concerns” about reforming the way people pay for their care.
But the government has been criticised for failing to come up with proposals of its own.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said a strong social care system was needed to help older people who are the most vulnerable to Covid-19.
Responding to the Budget statement, he said: “But social care is in crisis. There is an £8 billion funding gap since 2010.
“Instead of the Government presenting a social care plan which the part-time Prime Minister told us was ready long ago, they are asking the rest of us for ideas.”
Gemma Hope, director of policy at Leonard Cheshire, said: “The lack of action on social care constituted a serious omission from today’s budget announcement. The system is stretched to breaking point and many disabled people still don’t have the support to live as independently as they choose.
“Disabled people urgently need to see a clear plan on social care. This should include long-term funding that ensures access to high-quality care and support for people of all ages. If the government wants to honour its pledges on social care, it must build a fair system for all.”