The sector has responded to the Chancellor's announcement of further delays to funding and reform of social care in the Spring Statement this year.
A three-year Spending Review will now align with the Autumn Budget, two years since Government announced its intentions to publish a Green Paper.
The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) is calling on Government to rethink and bring forward much-needed reform.
While Government appears unable or unwilling to progress the Green Paper, says VODG, by contrast it is railroading through controversial reforms on mental capacity legislation. The swift passage of the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill proves that Government can pick up the pace of reform – if it so chooses, says the charity.
VODG argues that Government must urgently reverse years of chronic under-funding in the sector. A clear policy direction for social care is vital, along with a fair financial settlement that would guarantee the sector’s future.
Cumulative adult social care cuts since 2010, for example, total £7bn. VODG’s recent analysis, A stitch in time: the case for funding social care highlighted the impact of under-funding on the social care workforce and stressed the importance of reform and future funding guarantees.
Dr Rhidian Hughes, VODG Chief Executive, said, 'The case for a clear policy direction for social care is clear and is something VODG has argued for powerfully and repeatedly. While Brexit is a priority for Government – and will have an undoubted impact on social care – it is not an excuse for it to drag its heels over social care. Government’s inability to produce the long-awaited Green Paper has a human impact because older and disabled people rely on social care. Ministers are effectively leaving a vital national support system in limbo instead of giving it financial resource and strategic direction it urgently needs.'
Other organisations have also responded to the lack of any mention of funding or reform for social care in the Spring Statement.
Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association said, 'The Government acted on our calls to find extra one-off funding for councils this year in the last Autumn Budget, including for social care, potholes and high streets. With councils still facing a funding gap of more than £3bn in 2019/20, it is disappointing that the Chancellor has missed the opportunity to use today’s Spring Statement to provide further desperately-needed funding for our under-pressure local services this year.
'The money local government has to maintain the services our communities rely on is running out fast and huge uncertainty remains about how local services will be paid for into the next decade.
'Last year’s Autumn Budget was the earliest for a number of years but was still held at the end of October. The Government’s plan to publish the Spending Review alongside the Autumn Budget this year could exacerbate the funding challenges facing councils and will severely hamper their ability to plan ahead for next year and beyond. It is vital that the Government publishes the Spending Review much earlier and ensures it genuinely secures the financial sustainability of councils...
'Brexit cannot be a distraction from the challenges facing our public services. If we truly value our local services then we have to be prepared to pay for them. Fully funding councils is the only way councils will be able to keep providing the services which matter to people’s lives, continue to lead their local areas, improve residents’ lives, reduce demand for public services, and save money for the taxpayer.'
Commenting from Independent Age, George McNamara, Director of Policy and Influencing at the charity, said, 'It’s desperately disappointing and frustrating that the Government has yet again decided to kick the can of social care funding down the road. We are in the scandalous position where people are dying every day because they are not receiving the social care that meets their needs.
'The Government is focused on Brexit, and older people are suffering because social care is still being treated as a Cinderella service, not getting the care and attention it needs. The Government’s long term plan for the NHS will be ineffective until it addresses the crisis in social care funding, and part of resolving this crisis must be to release without further delay the long overdue social care Green Paper, for which we have been waiting for over two years.'
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, has commented on the failure to mention social care in the Spring Statement. She said, 'Another opportunity has passed and once again the Government has failed to deliver the funding for social care services that unpaid carers and those they support desperately need.
'Without immediate investment in care services – as well as plans for sustainable long-term funding – the pressure on families providing unpaid care is only going to increase. We know that carers are already under a lot of strain, with the vast majority of (72%) reporting poor mental health and two in five unable to take a break from their caring role in the last year.
'Carer’s Allowance, the main benefit for people caring unpaid for more than 35 hours a week, is still the lowest benefit of its kind and those who rely on this support face a never-ending struggle to make ends meet, some forgoing essentials such as food and heating. It’s high time the Government made it fairer for carers and raised Carer’s Allowance throughout the UK – as has already been done in Scotland.
'The Government’s upcoming Spending Review must ensure better financial support for carers and enable them to have a break. Carers have already waited over two years for the Government’s Green Paper on social care so it is imperative that this too has their huge contribution to our society and the economy – worth £132bn a year – at its heart.'