Chancellor chooses surplus over caring for the most vulnerable, says United Response
Tim Cooper, Chief Executive, United Response
“The Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review and Autumn Statement have signally failed to address what is now a crisis in social care; and a crisis which is only set to worsen.
“Of course, we welcome the fact that the additional money raised by increasing council tax will be ring fenced to adult social care; however, even if all councils did use this power it would only raise £2 billion across the lifetime of the Parliament. This would not be enough to maintain social care even at the current level and cover the costs of the National Living Wage (of which the Chancellor’s Statement contained no mention). We also know that these increases are at each local authorities’ discretion and some of those areas with the greatest need are those with the least ability to raise the funds they need, due to lower property values. Other local authorities may choose not to raise taxes at all. An analysis by consultants iMPower suggests that the amount raised could differ significantly from authority to authority, ranging from an almost 5% increase to current adult social care spending in wealthier authorities to less than 2% in less wealthy, largely urban authorities.
“And, whilst the announcement of £1.5Bn additional funding for the Better Care Fund sounds good on paper, the reality is that previous funding has been swallowed up by health, rather than being allocated to social care. It is vital that measures are put in place – and put in place now – to make sure that this funding is targeted to genuinely preventative services and that social and health funding is properly integrated with a real, level playing field. However, even when added to the potential £2Bn, this total fund of £3.5Bn over 5 years is not enough to cover the rising costs of an ageing population and – thankfully – decreased mortality rates for disabled adults.
“Similarly, the announcement of an additional £600M over 5 years to mental health services is welcome – but at just £1.2M per year to cover the entire UK population, a drop in the ocean. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year; with a population of almost £65M on average over the period, that’s 16.25M people with a mental health problem – giving them just under £37 additional support each.
“The rhetoric speaks of prevention; yet the figures herald crisis. At the levels of funding that are currently set out, vulnerable people will be driven to crisis, to hospitals and to acute care – in complete contradiction to the policy direction that the Government has indicated that it wishes to take.
“What has happened to the £6bn that the Government saved by delaying the introduction of the care cap? The £6bn that was a manifesto commitment? Is this now contributing to the Chancellor’s forecast £10bn surplus? Figures from LGA/ADASS show that £700 million is needed each year, to simply maintain the care system at its current level (meeting the minimum care requirements of a population that is living longer). LGA figures also show that on top of the £700 million, £330 million will be needed each year from 2016/17 to implement the National Living Wage across publicly funded social care. This figure will rise to £0.8bn by 2020. Both of these should and could be funded from the £6 billion which has been saved – whilst still delivering the Chancellor a surplus.
“Hearing the Chancellor’s statement today he opens the Government to the charge that they are simply robbing the poorest in our society to pay for a surplus; this cannot be a sustainable position.
Government must engage with specialist providers to support disabled people into work
The announcement of a new Health & Work programme to support disabled people and other long term unemployed people back to work is a welcome step forward, as is the expansion of Access to Work; a benefit which has helped many thousands of disabled people enter – and remain in – the workplace.
We now call on the Government to engage with specialist disability employment providers in the design of this new programme, ensuring that the knowledge and experience gained from delivering Work Choice is not lost.
It is important that the Government ensures that the whole system works to enable disabled people to return to work. Specialist Disability Equality Advisers (DEAs) have all but disappeared from job centres, often replaced by an electronic portal which itself represents a huge barrier for many disabled people. It is therefore vital that the Government in its current review of specialist employment programmes commits real and proper funding and resources to maintain and expand these programmes that are proven to help the most vulnerable move towards – and into – work.
We welcome the scrapping of proposals to remove tax credits as good news for our society and vital news for a huge number of families and individuals, including the vast social care workforce. However, we remain incredibly concerned about the plans to forge ahead with other welfare reforms, including the move to “align” new ESA claimants with JSA benefits and “conditionality”.
“Specifically, we are concerned that those in the ESA Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) will lose £30 a week in their benefits under these proposals. This group has been assessed by government as fit to work in the future but NOT fit to work currently and so it is extremely difficult to see how making this vulnerable group even poorer can possibly improve their fitness – or wellness – to work.
“Similarly, whilst the announcement of a new apprenticeships programme is welcome, such a programme must be set up in a way that includes disabled people from the outset. Only then will the Government meet its manifesto commitment to close the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people.”