Budget: £5bn for coronavirus will help social care but government criticised for lack of sector funding

Chancellor Rishi Sunak says some of emergency funding will go to councils to support vulnerable people but sector leaders bemoan failure to tackle wider resource shortfall

Rishi Sunak
Photo: Chancellor Rishi Sunak (HM Treasury)

Social care will get a piece of the £5bn fund announced in today’s Budget to fight coronavirus (Covid-19) but the government was heavily criticised for its lack of further action to shore up the sector.

In his first Budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak’s said the coronavirus money would “fund pressures in the NHS, support local authorities to manage pressures on social care and support vulnerable people, and help deal with pressures on other public services”.

However, while Sunak said the NHS would get  “whatever resources it needs to cope with coronavirus”, there was no similar commitment for local authorities in relation to social care – despite the fact that older people and those with long-term health conditions are at particular risk from the virus.

‘Social care commitment required’

In its response to the Budget, which welcomed the £5bn fund, the Local Government Association (LGA) called for such a commitment.

“It is clear that local government needs the same commitment the NHS has received from the chancellor today, that it will get any immediate financial support it needs to help adult social care services keep vulnerable residents safe and reduce pressure on the NHS,” said Ian Hudspeth, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board

It is not clear how the £5bn fund will be distributed and under what circumstances, and Hudspeth said he looked forward to seeing the full details.

The Budget announcement came after a sector leader warned social workers to brace themselves for extra administrative work and the need to arrange longer home care visits as the virus spreads throughout the UK. As at 9am on 11 March, 456 people had tested positive for the virus, with at least 240 in London, the South and the East, 42 in the Midlands and 75 in the North.

Learning disability boost

The Budget also included a pledge to provide funding over the next three years to speed up the discharge of people with learning disabilities or autism from hospital into the community.

This is in line with NHS England’s commitment to reduce inpatient numbers among this group to less than half of 2015 levels by 2023-24, and a Conservative manifesto commitment to provide £74m over three years towards this. The Budget documents did not specify the sum involved.

However, while sector leaders welcomed the funding, they said it would not be effective without a better-resourced funding settlement for adult social care.

“Councils must also be able to quickly access this funding, so they can build upon the progress they have made to date,” said Hudspeth, in relation to the learning disability and autism funding.

“A sustainable funding settlement for adult social care, which recognises the longer-term costs to councils, is desperately needed as inpatient beds are reduced and we rightly focus on investing in personalised, quality and timely community services for people with complex needs.”

Mental health inpatient ‘scandal’

National Autistic Society director of external affairs Jane Harris said: “The learning disability and autism fund, which is extra money for the next three years, will help tackle serious and longstanding funding issues that stop autistic people being able to leave mental health hospitals. We’ll be looking out for the detail on how this will be given to councils and how the government will guarantee that it is spent well.

“But, it won’t end the scandal of hundreds of autistic people being stuck in mental health units on its own. Every day, thousands of autistic people aren’t getting the crucial support they need because the social care system is starved of the funding it needs and mental health treatments aren’t adapted for autism.”

The Budget confirmed plans outlined last year to extend the government’s planned £1bn injection for 2020-21 in additional funding for social care – both adults’ and children’s – so that would be available for every year of this Parliament, due to end in 2024. In addition to the £1bn, councils will be able to raise about £500m for adult social care by increasing the council tax precept for the sector by 2% in 2020-21.

But while it referenced health secretary Matt Hancock’s invitation to MPs and peers to send him their ideas for reforming social care funding, ahead of cross-party talks due to start in May, the Budget failed to allocate any additional money for social care.

This is despite the LGA estimating that council would face a £3.9bn funding gap to maintain adult care services at current levels by 2024-25 because of rising cost pressures and demand.

‘Funding not enough’

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Julie Ogley welcomed the £5bn fund for coronavirus, but added: “We are however disappointed that the government has chosen not to address wider pressures on adult social care in today’s budget, the previously announced funding for 2020-21 is not enough to place the sector on a sustainable footing in the short-term.”

She urged the government to set out its vision for the long-term reform of adult social care, echoing criticisms from Labour and charities of Hancock’s announcement on cross-party talks last week on the grounds that it did not include specific reform proposals.

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at The King’s Fund, welcomed the emergency fund but said it was “hugely disappointing” that the budget didn’t include an emergency cash injection to help local government address social care needs beyond coronavirus.

“Adult social care remains a pressing and overlooked issue and despite the prime minister’s election commitment to ‘fix it once and for all’ the pressures have only increased in recent months,” he added.

‘Always the bridesmaid, never the bride’

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK and co-chair of the Care and Support Alliance (CSA), a coalition of care charities, pointed to the substantial increase in infrastructure spending in the Budget and warned that “by the time the government decides on what it wants to do to ‘fix social care’, as it has promised, there may not be the funds left to do all that needs to be done”.

“After so many disappointments there’s bound to be a concern that social care is destined to be always the bridesmaid and never the bride,” she added.

Children’s services leaders also criticised the lack of funding for social care and preventive services for families.

Association of Directors of Children’s Services vice-president Jenny Coles said: “Since 2010, funding for local authorities has been halved but the level and complexity of need we are experiencing has not. Up and down the country, councils are having to make increasingly difficult decisions like cutting the very services that prevent children and families from reaching crisis point and reduce future demand. This is not in children’s best interests.”

And in an echo of the government’s slogan for addressing regional inequalities in the country, she added: “If this government is serious about ‘levelling up’ then greater focus and prioritisation must be given to children and their families, particularly the most vulnerable.”

Rough sleeping support

Sunak also announced further funding for rough sleeping, in addition to the £236m unveiled by prime minister Boris Johnson in December to provide move-on accommodation for up to 6,000 rough sleepers and those at immediate risk of being on the streets.

The extra money in the Budget will go towards associated support services (£144m) and substance misuse support (£262m) designed to help more than 11,000 people a year.

The Budget also included a number of welfare measures as part of its action on coronavirus:

  • As previously announced, statutory sick pay will be payable from the first day of a person’s absence from work if they have Covid-19 or are required to self-isolate, with people able to obtain a notification from NHS 111 instead of a fit note to be off work.
  • People in the same position who are ineligible for statutory sick pay – because their earnings are too low or because they are self-employed – will be able to claim employment and support allowance from day one of their sickness, rather than day eight.
  • Others affected will be able to claim universal credit and access advance payments without having to attend a job centre.
  • Councils will be given a £500m hardship fund to support economically vulnerable households, mostly through council tax relief.

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5 Responses to Budget: £5bn for coronavirus will help social care but government criticised for lack of sector funding

  1. Nik H March 12, 2020 at 3:22 pm #

    Lack of funding for sector – again! We are working with our LA to have a contingency plan in place but so far there is no obviour route of support, should the workforce fall ill or back up in terms of service users who may fall ill. And that is the smallest of problems. There is no contingency for the general lack of support staff, poor recruitment, better wages or acknowledgements……….. it goes on. The sector will implode and I have no idea what will happen next!

  2. Chris Sterry March 12, 2020 at 10:41 pm #

    I did wish for this Budget to make substantive steps to ‘Solve the crisis in Social Care, but once again there is major disappointments. So my petition is still relevant


    Again there is the promise of the ‘Green Paper’ for Social Care, but this promise has been ongoing for so many years, that I feel the ‘Green’ may be mould and should this be so it will be at least Black should the promise ever come true.

    Matt Hancock is the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, but by his non-actions the reference in his Job Tittle, in reference to Social Care is by name only, for no actions have been forthcoming.

    He states that as much money the health services will need will be forthcoming and this promise should also have been extended to Social Care. For should Social Care completely fail tomorrow, if not even today, the funding for health would be never ending.

    But a substantial funding for Social Care is not all that is needed. Virtually everyone sees the need for a sustainable Health Service, but this is not extended to Social Care.

    If or when Social Care does fail, then this will create death for many of the persons reliant on Social Care. If I was a cynic, I could well reason that this is the Governments eventual intention, as it would also go some way to also reduce the Benefits Bill, for less people around to claim benefits through their demise, means less benefits payable.

    But this could not be so, could it!!

    The whole concept of Social Care needs to be drastically improved, as does its profile, for to many in the UK, when Social Care Carers are referenced to brings the comment, ‘that they only wipe bottoms’, but this is far from the truth, as a Care Worker has the life of people in their hands.

    It is regrettably realised that all care workers are good care workers, but I believe that the majority are and only a few bring the reputation down. The same can be said of Care Service Providers.

    A substantial increase in funding would be beneficial in many ways

    Reward the good care workers for the excellent job they do, they they should be in receipt of ‘at least’ the Real Living Wage as stated by the Living Wage Foundation.

    In doing so this will encourage more persons into the profession willing to provide good quality care. In which case those care producing poor quality care could be moved on, as could the poor quality Service Providers.

    It also has to be realised that Social Care is not restricted to the ‘elderly’ although currently they are the largest area receiving Social Care. But, with the increased standards of health care, more persons with disabilities and other life conditions are living much longer, but not as long as they could with even more improvements. It encompasses both adults and children and includes, not only care and nursing homes, but also Supported Living and a large area of Home Care.

    With Home Care, much is done by family members, who currently save the UK at least £130 Billion a year, but these family members are themselves suffering many conditions, at least, Stress and their own health continues to deteriorate, thus causing more pressure on Social Care and even Health Care.

    The working condition for Care Workers also needs to be substantially improved, for they themselves are not exempt from health problems and the miserly remuneration provides little cover if they. themselves fall ill, no money for the first 3 days of every sickness.

    While now all employed workers, should they be over 25 and earn more than £10,000 per year, be contributing to a pension, when the amount of eligibility remuneration is exceedingly small, so the £10,000 needs to be reduced to Zero and the non-entitled remuneration to be reduced, while proving a Real Living Wage.

    Should I even suggest a national sick pay scheme for Care Workers.

    Much needs to be done to improve Social Care and its image and all this is before Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is taken into account.

  3. Steve March 17, 2020 at 9:39 pm #

    Well said,carers should get more money,if you care for someone 24/7 it works out at under 40p per hour.But if you gets private carer in you will pay £15 an hour.
    Saving the govt millions.
    If you have never contributed to the system you get better looked after than those who have,surely that cannot be right.
    I could go on for weeks about it,just winds me up,spend money overseas,give it to immigrants,but don’t look after the people who care for the elderly and give more for the elderly.

  4. Will March 18, 2020 at 4:27 pm #


  5. John March 18, 2020 at 4:38 pm #

    What about the high at. Risk that don’t have money 💵. Have you politicians forgot about them or just shut them in self isolating. This is scary as I’m a carer on Universal credit so can’t claim carers allowance as it affects my uncles benefits as he is a cancer patient. Matt Hancock come on please prices are increasing. My Uncle also needs his medication. Please help the carers nurse doctors and high at risk. My Uncle is a nurse and he is breaking his heart. Sat in a room on his own. Not right. Please consider us. Sad day for The UK