Chancellor Gordon Brown announces the Budget

    The Budget

    The Commission for Social Care Inspection is to be merged with the
    Healthcare Commission under plans announced in today’s
    Budget, writes Maria Ahmed.

    Chancellor Gordon Brown said there would be a reduction in
    public sector inspectorates from 11 to four – with single
    inspectorates for social care and health, criminal justice,
    education and children’s services, and for local
    services.

    “Disappointed”

    Dame Denise Platt, chair of the CSCI, said she was
    “disappointed” by the move.

    While the CSCI has always supported closer working with the
    Healthcare Commission, Platt claimed the proposed merger heralded a
    “further period of instability” in the future of social
    care regulation for children and adult services.

    Platt said: “We are very concerned that the message sends
    further upheaval to the 1.6 million people who use social care in
    England, their families, and the eight million unpaid carers in the
    UK.”

    The Healthcare Commission gave its backing the proposed merger
    with the CSCI.

    But it also cautioned that changes in structure should not
    hamper moves already in progress to modernise regulation of health
    and social care services.

    Anna Walker, chief executive of the Commission, said:
    “Structural change must not hamper the real improvements in
    services that we are driving for patients and the public, doctors
    and nurses.”

    Charities were critical of the proposed merger.

    Claire Kober, policy manager of disability charity Leonard
    Cheshire, called the merger of the CSCI with the Healthcare
    Commission “political vandalism” which would
    “push back” social services by a decade.

    Kober said:  “An enforced merger with the Healthcare Commission
    not only threatens to ‘medicalise’ social care, but
    also silences the voices of service users. The chancellors’
    plans seem to be a challenge to the prime minister’s recently
    announced landmark vision for improving disabled people’s
    lives.”

    Dave Prentis, general secretary of public sector union Unison,
    called the plans for “joined-up” inspections rushed and
    “ill-thought through”.

    He said the union would be seeking “urgent”
    discussions to ensure the move would not be a cost-cutting
    exercise.

    In his budget speech today, the chancellor said he rejected
    suggestions that spending cuts in services including health and
    front line public services were “unacceptable.”

    Older people

    The Budget for 2005 also outlined a commitment to ensure that two
    million children and almost two million pensioners are “no
    longer trapped” in poverty.

    Hospital charges for pensioners will be abolished, and Brown
    pledged that there will be 1,000 more Sure Start children’s
    centres, with local councils being reimbursed with the lost VAT on
    these services.

    Older people will see an increase to £199 in pensions by 2007,
    along with free bus travel for older people Brown said.

    But charity Help the Aged said the budget was a “missed
    opportunity.” Mervyn Kohler, head of public affairs, said: 
    “Over nine budgets, and against a backdrop of data
    emphasising the success of the economy, the chancellor’s
    policies have been skewed towards means-tested benefits, which are
    inefficient at reaching those most in need and unpopular because
    people need to plead poverty in order to claim them.”

    Children

    There will be also be a rise in the child tax credit in line with
    earnings by a total of 13 per cent over the next three years.

    Including child benefit, this will rise in this period from the
    £28 a week to a maximum of £63 for the first child and
    £111 a week for two children.

    Brown said: “Because of rising tax credits a total of
    three million of Britain’s seven million families with
    children will now receive more in tax credits and child benefit
    than they pay in income tax – and have their income tax
    liability effectively wiped out. With child benefit up from
    £11 in 1997 to £17 this April, every family in Britain is
    better off.”

    Child Poverty Action Group welcomed the announcement. Kate
    Green, chief executive of the charity, said: “The commitment
    to continue to increase the child element in child tax credit in
    line with earnings is vital if the government is to stay on track
    to meet its child poverty target.”

    The chancellor also said that payments from the child trust
    fund  – currently £250 and £500- would be extended from
    primary to secondary school years.

    Stephen Burke, director of Daycare Trust, welcomed the
    announcement, but said further help was needed for parents of
    children with disabilities and those with the youngest
    children.

    He added: “The government must now also look into how best
    to stimulate the supply of childcare places for all. We believe
    their plans should include in the near future a review of the way
    that childcare is funded, and want to see a move towards universal
    provision though supply-side funding, as we see this as the only
    way to truly achieve quality, affordable childcare for
    all.”

    Employment

    Alan Johnson, the secretary of state for work and pensions, also
    announced today new rules to encourage incapacity benefit claimants
    into work and reforms in housing benefit rules to help job
    creation.

    Brown said: “Building on the 40 per cent increase in the
    numbers of lone parents in work since 1997, we will next month
    extend to new areas the £2000 first year return-to-work bonus
    for lone parents.”

    Home Secretary Charles Clarke is also announcing targeted early
    intervention for young people at risk of offending in their school
    years, such as mentoring and tuitions, to help prevent them
    becoming both long term unemployed and persistent offenders later
    in life.

     

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