Tag Archives: Budget

Reflections on the Budget’s impact on social care

As usual, Tuesday’s Budget was a mixed bag; some gains, some losses for the majority of people, including those in social care. Here is a brief summary of what I have spotted.

Firstly, the downsides; public sector pay has been frozen for 2 years, except for those earning less than £21,000 per year. As many people in social care work in the public sector, this could have an impact on service users down the line.

For instance, it could demotivate workers, but some may decide to leave the sector entirely if they see the chance of better pay in the private sector – however, losing experienced staff is something that can be ill-afforded.

Also, the government will introduce a medical assessment for Disability Living Allowance from 2013 for new and existing claimants. Interestingly, the wording in the Budget says that this measure is to “ensure support is targeted on those with the highest medical need”.

I assume this will be some form of capacity for work assessment, which is the prevailing trend in disability benefits. It also seems to indicate that the criteria for eligibility may be raised. This could see some claimants moved onto other benefits that do not pay as much, or off them entirely.

Also, and a little oddly, the document also says that the medical assessment will “ensure payments are only made for as long as a claimant needs them”. As DLA is paid to people with a disability – generally an ongoing thing that doesn’t get better – this makes me wonder if the government really understand what it is and what it is for.

DLA has never been a form of unemployment benefit; it is there to help people with disabilities – physical or mental – pay for items they need to live, such as care services, which the general population do not need. To take this away could make life very difficult for some disabled people.

Elsewhere, VAT will rise to 20% from January 2011, which is a move that will hit everyone in the pocket, but for people on benefits or low incomes, the effect could be magnified.

Also, capping Housing Benefit at £280 a week for a one-bedroom property and £400 a week for a four-bedroom family home could also adversely impact on service users and carers, especially in London and the south of England.

On the plus side, from April 2011, disabled people who require an extra room to support a resident carer will be able to claim Housing Benefit. This again supports the government’s ongoing commitment to the personalisation agenda.

Also, the changes to tax thresholds could see some people on low incomes – which often include carers – taken out of the tax system.

Likewise, the move to link pensions with earnings from April 2011, meaning that it is guaranteed to rise in line with earnings, prices or 2.5%, whichever is the greater, will help older people.  

Chancellor George Osborne added that proposals on welfare reform will be announced by October this year, before the government announces its comprehensive spending review (CSR), which will set out the plans for public expenditure for the next 3 years. It is good to see that – finally – there may be some movement on this much-needed measure.

So there are plusses and minuses to this Budget – possibly more of the latter than the former. However, benefit cuts have not come directly, which had been rumoured, but other measures will impact adversely nonetheless.

But there is also still much that is still to be decided; local authority budgets, which will be announced in the CSR, and that could yet have more impact on social care.

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How will the Budget affect social care?

Tomorrow is probably the most crucial day for the UK since the general election; the emergency Budget is delivered.

This has been widely trailed for weeks, and we all know that cuts are coming and will be deep. Just how deep will be revealed tomorrow – and there are a lot of worried people out there, for many reasons.

For example, it is anticipated that the cuts will herald many job losses in the public sector –the Adam Smith Institute, a think tank, claimed that more than 250,000 employees could be cut without affecting frontline services.

But will the Budget effect services in social care? Yes, is the simple answer, because the Budget will affect every department of the public sector.

However, there have been few specifics given away so far – although we know that the grant for implementing the personalisation agenda in adult social care will be protected.

Elsewhere, there may be an announcement about provision for more respite care for carers, which would be warmly welcomed.

As for anything else, it is back to guesswork again. So here goes…

The London School of Economics and University of Kent, commissioned by Age UK, reckons the social care budget could be cut by £900 million over the next 2 years. That would inevitably mean cuts, and it could well be that local authorities ramp up the eligibility criteria for social care once again. This would take some people out of the system and as a result could seriously adversely impact on their – and their carers’ – lives and possibly hasten their move to more complex services or residential care.

Elsewhere, welfare benefits will be looked at, and any rise is unlikely at best. There is also the threat of changes to Incapacity Benefit and more stringent testing for eligibility, which could mean that some people are moved onto the (lower rate) Jobseeker’s Allowance who have little chance of gaining work.

There is also a lingering threat of a rise in VAT, which would hit everyone.

However, before the election at the Age UK conference, the Conservatives and Liberals said that social care funding levels would be maintained at least. But since then both have had a better look at the UK’s books and this hasn’t been reiterated since the coalition was formed – or if it has, I haven’t seen it; please correct me if I’m wrong.

So, tomorrow’s Budget could be painful for social care in terms of job losses for those employed in the sector, cuts to services and benefits. What effect this will have remains to be seen, but those involved in providing care will keep on going because they always do – that is the one certainty at this time.

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Would increasing NHS spending cut social care services?

Interesting stuff from shadow health secretary Andy Burnham today, as reported in the Guardian, who claims that increasing NHS spending could adversely affect social care provision.

Burnham objects to the government’s commitment to increase NHS spending in real terms year on year; “If they persist with this councils will tighten their eligibility criteria even further for social care. There will be barely nothing left in some parts of the country, and individuals will be digging ever deeper into their own pockets for social care support,” the Guardian reports him as saying.

As a cynical journo, my instant reaction is this is just a way of scoring a few cheap political points before the emergency Budget next Tuesday. And it probably is – but he does make a couple of salient points nevertheless.

It has struck me as odd that the only department with a guarantee of an increase in spending – amid swingeing cuts for everyone else – is health, especially at a time when the NHS is performing relatively well – if you take meeting the majority of targets as ‘well’. It smacked of a sop to the electorate – increasing health spending is always a vote winner.

Also, while there is nothing to say that the increase in NHS spending will come from the social care budget, there is nevertheless an element of robbing Peter to pay Paul with the Conservative commitment too – its reasonable to assume that increases in one department will mean that others gets cut. There are no spending commitments for social care (that I know of), so cuts in this area would seem inevitable.

Burnham also notes that putting the NHS in a stronger financial position to social care would make joint working – the current prevailing trend – harder to achieve.

Also, cutting social care could increase the burden on the NHS if more people end up in hospital due to falls etc due to struggling without care services they need because they cannot afford them. They could stay there longer if there is not the social care provision – meals on wheels, housing, care services etc – to support them in the community on release.

But whatever happens in next week’s Budget, it would seem the future for social care is an austere one; at a local level, there are already news stories of cutbacks in services, or charges for them increasing. To pick one example at random, here is a story from the online version of the Northampton Chronicle & Echo about county council proposals – currently out to public consultation – to raise £600,000 by increasing the cost of social care services.

Northampton County Council justifies this plan by saying that without the increase in charges, services would have to be cut.

This is a situation repeated across the country. It would seem that social care providers and service users are going to have to do more with less. How the government – and local authorities – will deal with this will be interesting to see. All should become clear in the coming weeks.

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Budget – predictions for social care

What will be in today’s Budget for social care? In the words of magician Paul Daniels, “not a lot”.

The focus has thus far been on stamp duty, fuel duty and measures to help business and stimulate the fragile recovery. It will also be setting the stage for the financial/economic debates in the forthcoming election. Social care hasn’t really had a look in.

From what I can glean, reading around various predictions and what has come from Whitehall so far, the only measure that will directly affect people in receipt of social care is a possible rise in benefits.

While the rises are only expected to be small – 2% on pensions, 1.5% on other benefits – at least the government hasn’t stuck to its usual formula of basing the raise on the RPI inflation rate; last September it stood at -1.4%.

However, I suspect these rises won’t be met with much joy. With the cost of living increasing at the moment – notably food, utilities and fuel – the raise won’t cover it.

Elsewhere, I wonder if the Chancellor will make any reference to the proposed National Care Service or the white paper on adult social care funding – rumoured to be published this week – in his funding plans.

There has been very little mention of this in the pre-Budget build-up, but if the white paper is coming, the Chancellor may give some pointers when he outlines where funds will be going in the coming months.

I will be watching the Budget with interest and will blog and Twitter on this later in the day.

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