Social care in the Spring Budget
The Spring Budget, delivered on 8th March 2017, was always going to be a point of interest for health and social care providers and local authorities, as well as current and future service users. With the current social care system struggling to meet its obligations under the Care Act, while sticking to ever-tighter budgets, there was much speculation over whether more help would be given to this essential sector.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond’s 2017 Spring Budget did deliver some promising news, with an additional £2 billion to be given to social care over the next three years, with £1 billion available for 2017/2018. This initial injection of cash has been described as “a bridge to the Better Care Fund”. Hammond also admitted that this wasn’t enough to tackle all of the current challenges to long-term social care funding, and said that a Green Paper will be published later in the year looking into the issue in more depth.
While £2 billion is a good investment into the struggling sector, the Local Government Association has predicted a funding cap for social care of £2.6 billion by 2020. Chief executive for Care England, Martin Green, has said that while it’s a step in the right direction much more needs to be done: “The Chancellor’s Spring Budget has quite rightly acknowledged the precarious state of adult social care. While the £2 billion additional funding over three years for adult social care is welcome, it will only be an efficient use of tax payer’s money should the Green Paper on adult social care deliver the reforms that are necessary to put the system on a stable footing”.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK shares these concerns: “There’s a pressing need to give social care real stability, and providers, commissioners and users more confidence. We will have to wait and see if the extra funding announced today does enough in these respects and the Government must be prepared to act fast if it does not but, more positively, a Green Paper is absolutely the right approach and Age UK looks forward to supporting its development.”
The extra funding not change the pressure that local councils are currently under to meet a rising demand for social care services, as we all live longer and home care and residential care bills continue to rise, which will hit self-payers hardest. The new injection of cash will help local authorities deliver care packages to those people, both the elderly and young adults with disabilities, within its criteria for funding, however, it won’t help to increase the amount paid for council-funded places in care homes, for example, which fall short of the actual cost of a place. This often leaves self-payers paying over the odds to help plug the gaps – and the Spring Budget does nothing to help this situation, especially while the £72,000 care cap is till delayed.
We’ll be following the Green Paper and its suggested changes to the social care system as it is released.