Behind the headlines

Our regular panel comments on a topic in the

When the chancellor, Gordon Brown, gave his
pre-Budget statement last week, he put higher taxes to pay for the
NHS firmly on the agenda. The following day the Prime Minister said
that this would mean matching the substantially higher spending
levels on health in France and Germany, although the government has
since tried to water down this commitment. Whatever the outcome,
extra investment is likely to bring more money into health and
social care partnerships and aid integration. On a smaller, but no
less important, scale the pre-Budget statement held out the promise
of benefits to both young and old. Older people were told to expect
annual pension increases of at least 2.5 per cent, or £100 a
year. Winter fuel allowance was set at £200 a year for the
rest of the parliament and there will be a new pension credit to
help achieve the minimum income guarantee for older people. Working
families tax credit is to be extended to achieve an “integrated tax
system” for all families, as well as making tax credits available
to childless couples.

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel
and Care for the Elderly
“I broadly welcome the chancellor’s statement on
pensions, but unfortunately what he is proposing does not go far
enough to address the root causes of pensioner poverty. What is
needed is a long-term approach to pensions that places them in the
context of general living standards. With regard to the constant
plea to raise taxes, I wish that the chancellor would pay more
attention to how he spends the national income, and start
prioritising people-centred spending.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive,
British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering
“A real debate has started about paying for public
services. If we want a world-class social care system that benefits
all of us we are going to have to pay for it. Also welcome is the
chancellor’s continuing commitment to tackling child poverty,
although we are waiting to see in detail what level the new child
tax credit will be set at in order to lift children out of poverty.
And we will all need to ensure that social care gets the priority
it deserves in the ongoing discussions around the current
comprehensive spending review. This will be critical to securing
the funding for the successful implementation of the Adoption and
Children Bill.”

Karen Warwick, senior practitioner,
“In his speech, the chancellor spoke of building a fairer
and stronger Britain. Addressing the poverty faced by pensioners
and families with children is a good place to start. These groups
are often the invisible poor who struggle to survive on
insufficient state benefits.”

Bill Badham, programme manager,
Children’s Society
“The pre-Budget statement seems fairly good news for the
eldest and youngest citizens. If taxes go up to better fund the NHS
then I hope the paying public will be proud rather than resentful.
The chancellor renewed his commitment to halving child poverty in
10 years. But much more will need to be done than is offered
through the working families tax credit, baby bonds and a small
increase in the minimum wage.”

Julia Ross, social services director
and primary care trust chief executive, London Borough of Barking
and Dagenham
“It’s great that there’s more money going into health.
Any investment in health will have direct benefits for social
services users. It’s also true that if the pressure on waiting
lists and emergency care is eased through extra cash, then we
should see a real drop in delayed transfers of care. At the moment
the beds just fill up as soon as we can empty them. I also hope
that more money for primary care will allow us to take forward
partnerships and ease the way to more integrated budgets.”


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