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


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

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

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

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.”


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

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


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

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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