Leaders in social care have reacted with dismay to yesterday’s Spending Review, branding it a “catastrophe” for the sector.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that local authorities will be able to access more than £1bn of spending for social care through a £300m social care grant and the ability to levy a 3% adult social care precept.
But the funding has been met with criticism from trade unions and social care organisations, including United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKCHA), ADASS and the National Care Forum (NCF), who say it is “wholly inadequate” and can only lead to the “reductions in the provision of care”.
UKHCA policy director Colin Angel said: “Government’s announcement on the one-year Spending Review is exceptionally disappointing. It fails to address, amongst other things, the significant contribution that social care makes to enabling us all to live well at home, and which our valued workforce makes to the economy.
“£1bn across adults’ and children’s services, combined with the discretionary use of the Social Care Precept by local councils, does not bring social care further forward. Nor does it begin to address an underfunded system which was already fragile before the start of the pandemic.”
ADASS urged the government earlier this month to use the Spending Review to underline its commitment to adult social care.
Reacting to yesterday’s announcement, ADASS president James Bullion said: “We were hoping for a settlement that would enable us to stabilise care and support services for millions of older and disabled people and family carers. We asked for certainty and greater equality of treatment with our NHS colleagues. While we are still examining the detail, it seems as if the fragmented short-term funding announced by the Chancellor falls alarmingly short.
“We needed funding to ensure that care providers remain in business, staff are paid a national care wage that properly rewards them for their amazing work, and carers get the vital breaks they need to keep going. Social care has so much potential for good, and is falling further behind.”
Vic Rayner, executive director of the NCF, said: “The Spending Review is a catastrophe for social care. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has consistently talked up the importance of social care, yet once again it has shown that it is unwilling to get behind the provision of services that are the lifeblood of people living independently within the community, or within residential care, or support services.
“The funding outlined in the review is completely and wholly inadequate – it can only lead to reductions in the provision of care.”
Rayner added that the government should be “very aware” that its decision to “ignore” the advice around minimum funding from the sector, think tanks, the Health and Social Care Select Committee and local government, is a “fundamental step backwards”.
The Committee has previously called for a £7bn annual increase in social care funding in the government’s spending review to avoid the risk of market collapse.
Rayner continued: “It has offered just £300 million of additional funding, to be split between adult and children’s care services, to a sector decimated by the catastrophic costs of providing care in COVID-19, a pandemic it entered whilst reeling from years of unfulfilled promises of reform and well documented underfunding
“The Chancellor’s statement today must not be the end of this – we urgently demand the government to strengthen their commitment to provide adequate funding both for the short-term spending review period and to urgently address reform.”
Victoria Hemmingway, Public Affairs and Policy manager at learning disabilities charity Hft, commented: “After a year when the adult social care sector has been firmly on the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic, the announcements made in today’s Spending Review are deeply disappointing. While access to an additional £1bn for local councils to fund social care is a welcome step, it is yet another stopgap solution, falling dramatically short of what is required to place the sector on a sustainable financial footing.
“Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the adult social care sector was stretched beyond its limits. Hft’s Sector Pulse report (2018-19), which provides an annual snapshot of the financial health of the social care sector, revealed earlier this year that 52% of care providers would need to close services in the near future due to financial pressures. Coupled with the unexpected additional costs of Covid-19, this places adult social care providers under undue strain, during a time when the service they provide is needed more than ever by some of the most vulnerable adults in society.”
Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said the funding is “nowhere near enough” to reform social care services. “It will mean more misery for those who can’t access the support they need,” she added.
The Chancellor has also announced an increase in the National Living Wage, which will be extended to people aged 23 and over.
The 2.2% hike in the National Living Wage will bring it to £8.91 an hour and the extension to a lower age range will see around two million people benefiting.
Commenting on this news, McAnea said: “The vast majority of workers will also be left with next to nothing save for a small increase in the minimum wage. These are already among the lowest paid employees in the country. They’ve been on the Covid frontline from the start and deserve so much more.
“What’s needed now is a proper plan for reform. A national care service to drive up standards, increase pay and attract much-needed recruits.”