Budget is further kick in the teeth for social care

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Care operators say today’s budget was a further kick in the teeth for the care of the country’s most vulnerable.

The Independent Care Group (ICG) says there was nothing in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s speech to tackle the 1.6m people who cannot get the care they need.

ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “I’ll add an extra ‘E’ to Mr. Hunt’s list and that is, ‘Excluded’.

“There was nothing in the budget to tackle the rationing of care, help us to recruit the 165,000 staff needed or support those unpaid carers who are giving up so much to help others.

“It was another opportunity missed. With a rare, £30bn fiscal windfall, the Chancellor had an opportunity to give social care the minimum £7bn a year extra he has previously admitted the sector needs.”

The ICG says more money is needed to pay frontline care staff better, so that the sector can tackle the 165,000 staff vacancies in the sector.

“Care and nursing homes and homecare providers are struggling and closing and more and more people are going to end up going without the care they need,” Mr. Padgham added.

“Government after government, of all political colour’s, have failed to tackle the crisis in the sector. On social care this Government, like all others before it, has failed to fix the roof while the sun was shining.”

In the past, when he was Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Mr. Hunt said social care needed at least an extra £7bn a year “just to stand still”.

Mr. Padgham added: “Mr. Hunt seems to have forgotten that pledge and instead left social care to continue to struggle.”

Last autumn, the ICG published its Five Pillars of Social Care Reform document, setting out what it believes are the actions required to save the sector.

The five pillars are:

•          Ring fence a percentage of GDP to be spent on providing social care to those who already receive it and the 1.6m who can’t get it

•          Create a unified National Care Service, incorporating health and social care

•          Set a National Minimum Wage per hour for care staff on a par with NHS

•          Set up an urgent social care task force to oversee reform

•          Fix ‘fair price for care’ tariffs for things like care beds and homecare visits.

Responding to the Spring Budget on behalf of the Carer Poverty Coalition, Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK, said:

“In a Spring Budget that focused so heavily on supporting people who are economically inactive to be in work, including measures for those with disabilities and long-term illnesses, the Government missed a clear opportunity to support unpaid carers looking after their relatives.

“Providing care limits carers’ ability to earn a full income and adds extra costs. The rate of poverty amongst unpaid carers has been increasing in recent years, exacerbated by the rising cost of living. The Chancellor has ignored the call of the Carer Poverty Coalition to reform carers’ benefits and remove barriers to paid work, measures which would help them stay out of poverty.

“Many carers who are not currently working want to be. There are nearly one million people receiving Carer’s Allowance, the main benefit for those providing 35 hours or more of care each week, and some of these work alongside. However, the harsh earnings threshold – which sees carers only able to work a maximum of 13 hours 20 minutes a week from April or otherwise lose the whole benefit – is forcing carers to work fewer hours in order to keep their Carer’s Allowance. It is also the lowest benefit of it’s kind, worth only £76.75 a week from April 2023 and urgently needs reform alongside means-tested carers’ benefits.

“The Government needs to urgently commission a review into Carer’s Allowance and its eligibility rules to ensure it supports carers to continue providing care, whilst also setting out a wider plan for enabling and supporting unpaid carers to participate in paid work.”

Today’s Spring Budget was unveiled by The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP. Carers UK is disappointed that unpaid carers have yet again been omitted from receiving targeted financial support.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:

“Today’s Spring Budget simply does not recognise or support the essential care that unpaid carers provide on a daily basis. They have yet again been overlooked for targeted support, despite the savings they provide to the NHS, the economy and our society.

On the cost of living and energy

“Nearly two-thirds (63%) of carers told us they were extremely worried about managing their monthly costs. While we welcome the Government’s announcement to extend energy support until the end of June and the fuel duty freeze for a further 12 months, this does not go far enough to support hard-pressed carers during the cost-of-living crisis. With the additional costs that come with caring for a loved one, we believe they should receive targeted financial support.

On work and finances

“In a Budget focused on supporting the economically inactive return to work, we are surprised that there was no targeted support for the 1.1 million carers who are currently economically inactive. The ‘Returnerships’ programme focused on delivering apprenticeships for the over 50s could be useful to carers looking to return to work.

“We had also called for a dedicated Work Allowance for unpaid carers and are concerned that this has not been included.  Giving unpaid carers a dedicated Work Allowance where they are receiving support from Universal Credit would have been a big step to helping many over 50s remain and return to paid work whilst providing essential care for others. We know that three-quarters (75%) of carers worry about continuing to juggle work and care. While we welcome the Government’s support for the Carer’s Leave Bill, these measures alone will not keep carers in work.

“Whilst there are welcome boosts to childcare in the Budget which will benefit many families, it’s very disappointing to see that there were no additional investments made to social care when this is essential for many families to be able to juggle work and care.  The economic value of social care supporting working families has been ignored.”

On social care

“We are deeply disappointed that there was no mention of any funding for social care which is so desperately needed. There are 165,000 vacant posts in adult social care – the highest rate on record – and the Governments’ failure to set out a workforce plan for social care during this Budget is a massive missed opportunity. The system urgently requires reform and is at the risk of collapse if the Government does not tackle this issue head-on.”

Responding to today’s budget by Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor of the exchequer, Chris Thomas, head of the commission on health and prosperity, said: 

“Compared to other countries, people in the UK are more likely to die before their time or fall sick earlier than necessary. This has a substantial knock-on consequence on our economy – as shown by the record number of people out of work because of long-term sickness in the UK today. 

“It’s therefore positive that the Chancellor has recognised that better health is economic common sense in today’s budget. More support for people with long-term conditions seeking work; greater efforts to prevent people who fall ill being forced to leave work; and an increase in occupational health are all welcome measures. 

“However, the UK is getting sicker year on year and there’s far too little in this budget to stem that rising tide. There are no answers to the NHS’ collapse; nothing tangible for adult social care; and nothing on how we can use prevention to deliver healthier lives. So it’s critical that this budget is the first step, not the final word, in building better health and great prosperity across the whole of the UK”. 

Care England, the largest and most diverse representative body for independent providers of adult social care in England, has today described the Spring Budget announced by the Chancellor as another ‘missed opportunity’.

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says:
“The Autumn Statement announced £7.5 billion for the social care sector over the next two years, aimed at creating an additional 200,000 new care packages, supporting the discharge of people from hospital to ease NHS backlog, whilst also being split across adult and child services. Care England’s recent Fair Cost of Care analysis shows that, even with this funding, the deficit for older person’s residential and nursing home stands at around £2bn per annum. While the £7.5bn represented a step in the right direction, the Spring Budget was an opportunity to reinforce this progress and move towards a sustainable funding settlement for the sector. It was an opportunity that, unfortunately, the Government did not take, with a notable lack of any announcements targeted at the sector. Against the backdrop of a workforce crisis and rising vacancies, the rising cost of living and increasing energy costs, the stabilisation of the adult social care sector should be the Government’s priority in the coming months. The NHS cannot survive in the long term if the social care sector is unsustainable. A political consensus must be forged on how to fund and support our vital sector sustainably over the long term.”
 
Care England made the following representations for the 2023 Spring Budget:

  • Zero-rate VAT for Welfare Services to enable care providers to recover input VAT.
  • Provide enhanced support for energy costs and remove the 5% VAT surcharge and Climate change Levy on energy bills.
  • Make EBSS AF payments directly to social care providers, not those in receipt of care who are not directly responsible for paying energy bills.
  • Establish a national tariff of £1,500 per week to be imposed for a specified period and clear care needs specifications to aid hospital discharges.
  • Actualise a fully funded 10-year workforce vision, as set out in the People at the Heart of Care white paper.
  • Introduce a Government-developed pay framework to establish a minimum care wage, above the level of the NLW and ties to NHS band 3.
  • Increase the number of VISA allocations given to care providers, at a reduced cost to aid in lowering the number of vacancies within the care sector.
  • Confirm what will happen to the minimum salary set for care workers entering the UK via the Shortage Occupation List route (previously set above the NLW), once the NLW rises to £10.42 from 1 April 2023.
  • Allow care works to work full-time hours without losing access to benefits.

In his announcement of the Spring Budget today, the Chancellor set out measures including scrapping the lifetime allowance on tax-free pension contributions; the expansion of 30 hours of free childcare a week for working parents to cover children below the age of three; a £27bn tax cut for business through a new ‘full expensing’ policy and capital allowances reform; and, funding for up to 50,000 places on new voluntary employment scheme for disabled people, called Universal Support. Other notable announcements included the freezing of fuel duty for another year and the extension of domestic energy support for a further 3 months, limiting typical household energy bills to £2,500 a year.

Martin Green continues…
“Social care is vital for the future of local people and local economies. It supports some of society’s most vulnerable, often living with lifelong conditions and is a source of employment for millions of hardworking, dedicated people across England. Social care must become a priority for the country. With an ageing population and demand for services to increase, the Government requires a sustainable roadmap for the social care sector that will meet the country’s social needs and support the NHS in reducing waiting lists. Care England will continue to work pragmatically to present solutions which seek to resolve the issues faced by all those within the sector and those who draw on care and support. Investment in the sector is key and will only be achieved with a clear long-term care strategy which is properly funded, and we hope that the forthcoming Implementation Plan, due to be published in Spring, delivers on this.”

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Social care hit by a shortfall of 160,000 care staff

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