18 November 2022:
The Autumn Statement by the Chancellor included some headline-catching announcements on social care. An “increase in funding available for the social care sector of up to £2.8 billion next year and £4.7 billion the year after” was promised. For a sector on its knees, with millions of people left without the support they need and a staffing crisis, funding is welcome.
Look a little deeper into these figures though and they are not as promising as they appear. First, it seems much of this money is not new. A good chunk seems to come from repurposing existing funding intended for reforms of the sector, with the long-promised cap on social care costs being delayed for another two years. Another chunk is added by counting money that could be raised by council tax rises. It is also unclear what is happening with other planned funding, such as the £5billion pledged for wider reforms of the sector, promised in the white paper last year.
Second, the figures announced in the Autumn Statement come nowhere near the £7billion Jeremy Hunt said was needed annually to fix social care when he was chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee. Now that he is Chancellor, he is ignoring his own calls.
And then there is the small print, the caveats about how much of the money is tied into improving hospital discharge. Yet again, social care is seen as the poor relation to the NHS, with the government almost justifying why they need to fund social care in order to save the NHS. The government must end this focus on institutions and instead focus on people. Older people need good health services, but they also desperately need good care services. Yet the Chancellor proudly declared they are “a government putting the NHS first”.
It is people in vulnerable positions who are bearing the brunt of the failing care system. Every day on our helpline we hear how their safety and dignity is put at risk by services that are stretched to breaking point. Resolving this is urgent and not about saving the NHS – it is about ensuring people’s basic rights are protected.