Budget social care funding boost pits needs of adults and children against each other, warn sector heads

Chancellor Philip Hammond announces short-term package to ease pressures on social care but sector bodies say response is inadequate

Picture credit: Mark Thomas/REX/Shutterstock

Money announced in today’s Budget for social care is inadequate and pits the needs of adults and children against each other, sector leaders have warned.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said English councils would get an extra £650m in 2019-20 for social care for adults and children to tackle immediate pressures.

Of this, £240m would be dedicated to easing pressures on hospitals and reducing delayed discharges, matching an identical sum to tackle pressures this winter announced earlier this month.

The other £410m would be for councils to spend on improving adults’ or children’s social care services. The Budget also provided an additional £55m for the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) in 2018-19 to fund adaptations for disabled people, while an extra £84m over the next five years was pledged for up to 20 local authorities to fund services to prevent children going into care, drawing on lessons from innovation programmes in Hertfordshire, Leeds and North Yorkshire.

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) president Glen Garrod said it was positive there was more money for social care and the DFG. However, he expressed disappointment at the lack of ring-fenced money for adults’ services, which he said meant the needs of adult service users would be pitted against those of children and other council departments.

‘Invidious situation’

“It would seem that the era of austerity is, indeed, not at an end for older and disabled people,” said Garrod, in an echo of Hammond’s claim that the Budget signalled the end of austerity.

“The detail in the Budget creates an invidious situation affecting older and disabled people locally. Their needs will be competing with those of different council departments, projected overspends, dwindling or exhausted reserves, supporting NHS needs and the needs of children and young people.”

“We must have a long-term funding solution for adult social care and the government must bring these forward in the green paper urgently.”

Green paper due shortly

Hammond said the funding was designed to relieve current pressures and that longer-term funding decisions would be made in next Spring’s spending review, which will set public spending limits for the years beyond 2020. This would follow the long-anticipated social care green paper, which Hammond said the government would publish shortly. He said it would “set out the choices, some of them difficult for making our social care system sustainable into the future”.

King’s Fund director of policy Richard Murray stressed the importance of finding a long-term solution to social care pressures.

“The social care system cannot continue to get by on last-minute, piecemeal funding announcements,” he said. “Adult social care in England needs at least £1.5bn more per year simply to cope with demand, meaning that the funding announced today – which will also need to cover children’s social care – falls far short.

“This highlights the need for a long-term plan for how social care will be funded and structured so that it can meet increasing demand. Successive governments have dodged tough decisions on social care and the forthcoming green paper must now ensure social care gets the long-term plan it so desperately needs.”

‘Missed opportunity’

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) criticised the Budget as “another missed opportunity” to tackle the “crisis in children’s services”.

“As one of more than 120 organisations who had called for the chancellor put children at the heart of the budget, BASW are disappointed to see that yet again they have been forgotten,” said a BASW spokesperson.

BASW also criticised the level of funding provided for adult social care, saying it was “nowhere near solving the social care crisis”.

‘Small step’ on mental health

As had been trailed, the Budget also involved a series of commitments on mental health services, as part of the extra £20bn per year already pledged for the NHS by 2023.

The government promised to increase mental health spending as a share of NHS expenditure to fund comprehensive mental health support in every A&E; children’s and young people’s crisis teams in every part of the country; new crisis services; more mental health specialist ambulances, and 24/7 support for people with mental health problems through NHS 111.

However, Murray said the funding was insufficient on its own. “Years of underfunding have taken their toll and this is no more than a small step on the road to parity of esteem,” he said.

“Mental health services need more than money to meet demand. A chronic shortage of mental health staff means that, despite the new funding, the service won’t improve until the government and the NHS provide a plan to increase the workforce.”

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