Charities have been scathing about the Budget announcement of an extra £650 million being made available for social care with some stating that 2019 "was shaping up to be truly perilous" before this extra money was found.
Age UK said this payout continues the pattern whereby year on year, governments allow social care to teeter on the brink, only to bail it out with an emergency hand out – just enough to prevent total national collapse but no more. It added that this approach gives neither staff nor providers much encouragement to stay and so they continue to drift away, storing up even greater problems for the future.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK and co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance said: “Our dominant reaction to the Budget announcement is relief, but we are disappointed that the investment in social care wasn’t more and that at £650m (plus £45m for Disabled Facilities Grant), it is somewhere between a third and half of the amount the experts say is needed to fill existing gaps in services."
She said that £650m will not be enough to bring back the care homes and home care packages lost over the last decade or so – all at a time when demand has been rising. "Unfortunately, despite this additional money the 1.4 million older people with some level of unmet need for care will have to continue to ‘make do’ and those older and disabled people who are lucky enough to be receiving a service are unlikely to see any improvement in 2019.
“Nothing could better demonstrate the need for a bold and ambitious Social Care Green Paper, fit for meeting the challenge of saving social care for this and future generations, with much also resting on the outcome of next year’s Spending Review."
Richard Murray, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, added that the social care system cannot continue to get by on last-minute, piecemeal funding announcements. Adult social care in England needs at least £1.5 billion 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.
He said: "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.
"Two billion pounds for mental health confirms the early signals that this would be a key priority for the forthcoming NHS long-term plan. But years of underfunding have taken their toll and this is no more than a small step on the road to parity of esteem. 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."