Is it just me…?

Vic Rayner sits in for Robert Chamberlain and gives her view of the Budget and what it means for social care.

On 8th March, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond outlined the first full Budget post-Brexit. What will it mean for social care?

Of course – the devil is always in the detail – and we haven’t had much of that as I write. Instead, what I will lay out now will give you a flavour of the what – without the necessary detail of the how and when.

Funding

The Chancellor announced an additional £1bn for adult social care this coming financial year – which he wrapped up in a statement suggesting there would be an additional £2bn for the sector over the next three years. The £1bn identified for 2017 was described as a bridge to the Better Care Fund additional monies, which had been back-loaded towards the end of the Parliament.

We now know a little more about how this £2bn funding will be allocated, as on Thursday, the announcement detailing the level of financial support to individual authorities was released. In addition, reassurances were provided by key politicians that this allocation was in fact ‘new money’, rather than a diversion of existing resources.

Of course, this funding comes on the back of the changes announced in the local government settlement in December, which included giving local authorities permission to increase their council tax by up to 5%; 3% of that protected for social care funding. It also included the announcement of funding to be derived from reallocation of the new homes bonus to local authorities, badged as a mechanism to balance out the geographic differences arising from raising revenue through the council tax precept.

In the Budget, the Chancellor also referred to the need to address the long-term funding of social care, suggesting that there would be a Green Paper on this issue forthcoming, but promising not to exhume the notion of a ‘death tax’. The promise of this Green Paper is critical to identifying a solution that will enable the funding to keep pace with the ever-growing need for social care.

With this in mind, reform of the delivery of integrated health and social care was also given a budget boost, with the Chancellor announcing £325m of capital to be spent on ten pilot Sustainability and Transformation Plans which are likely to focus on the ongoing drive to move care closer to home.

One point of note, though, is the very strong link in the Budget to increased funding to reduce delayed discharge of older people. This will be of great concern to the sector, with the Budget statement appearing not to recognise the much broader social care responsibilities of authorities towards people with learning disabilities, and indeed to prevention.

Workforce

Whilst many were waiting for the financial announcement, it could’ve been easy to gloss over the workforce developments. However, there were a number of areas of interest for social care. Once again, there was a reiteration of the increase to the National Living Wage.

Alongside this, there were potentially some areas where there will be greater incentives for people to consider entering employment, including:

  • Extension of free childcare for three to four year olds to 30 hours per week.
  • New funding for ‘returnship’ schemes to bring people back into public and private sector after a career break.
  • Apprenticeships – including increased emphasis on parity of esteem for vocation to academic routes – potentially bringing new grants and funding for people entering into vocational routes – which provides potential for social care.

In evaluating the implications of the Budget, I will be keeping a weather eye on the short-term cash injection racing towards social care, particularly working to ensure that this heads straight to the frontline. However, the main prize for the sector is keeping that long gaze towards the horizon, where the Green Paper looms, offering reform to take us from 2020 to beyond.

Vic Rayner is Executive Director of The National Care Forum. What do you think of the Budget? Sign-in to share your thoughts. Subscription required.

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