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Adult Social Care “Kicked into the Long Grass” says Care England

Care England, the largest and most diverse representative body for independent providers of adult social care in England, has today expressed disappointment with the Autumn Statement and its failure to comprehensively address the major fiscal challenges facing the adult social care sector.

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says:
“Last week’s Autumn Statement was the latest in a long series of underwhelming announcements that have been met with disappointment and dismay by the adult social care sector. Over recent months, consecutive Governments have had ample opportunity to put in place a comprehensive package of support to finally address what the sector desperately needs in the face of mounting pressures. It is a matter of great regret that, once again, this opportunity was missed. There is no denying that the country faces challenging economic circumstances and against that backdrop, the announcement of additional funding is welcome. However, the package put forward does not come close to addressing the funding gap and by no means represents a comprehensive, long-term solution to ongoing funding pressures. The Chancellor himself called for an extra £7bn a year for the sector during his time as Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, a far cry from what he announced last week.

Additionally, despite the announcement of a long-term workforce plan for the NHS, no such plan is in place for adult social care. With 165,000 vacancies in the sector, more than in the NHS, care providers will continue to be unable to recruit and retain the staff necessary to continue delivering high-quality services for people reliant on the care our sector delivers.”

On 17 November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered the 2022 Autumn Statement to the House of Commons. Among the announcements relating to social care were:
• The investment of an additional £1bn in England in 2023-24, increasing to £1.7bn in 2024-25. Of this, £600m in 2023-24 and £1bn in 2024-25 is to move people out of hospital into social care to free up bed capacity. Part of this funding will be routed via ICBs and the Better Care Fund, with the remainder (£400m in 2023-24 and £700m in 2024-25) ringfenced for adult social care.
• A further £1.8bn in 2023-24 and £3bn in 2024-25 to be distributed via a Social Care Grant split between Adult and Child social care. The percentage split is unknown.
• The implementation of social care charging reforms, namely the cap on care costs, means test and Section 18(3) of the Care Act, will be delayed from October 2023 to October 2025. Funding for implementation will still rest with local government.
• A Treasury-led review of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme will launch to determine support for non-domestic energy consumers, excluding public sector organisations, beyond 31 March 2023. The scale of support for businesses will be significantly lower and target those most affected.

Following the Statement, Steve Brine MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, said the:

“Committee has repeatedly recommended an annual funding increase for social care so the £7.5bn uplift over the next two years is important. However, that is short of the annual increase in funding of £7bn that we have called for.” Mr. Brine was referring to a recommendation made by the Committee in their recent report into the social care workforce, which stated ‘annual funding for social care should be increased by £7 billion by 2023– 24.’ The report was published while Jeremy Hunt, now Chancellor, was Chair of the Committee.

Care England has this week written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, expressing disappointment at the Autumn Statement.

Martin Green continues:
“It is becoming abundantly clear that the Conservative Government’s manifesto commitment to ‘fix social care’ will not be met before the end of this Parliament. Adult social care services continue to be overlooked and providers and staff, despite their selfless efforts to support the most vulnerable in our society, are being taken for granted. Without significant change, the social care system will collapse. Inflation, which remains at an astronomical level, will eat up much of the newly-announced funding; a large proportion of which is directed towards the NHS and split between both adult and child care services. There are deep concerns within the sector about money going through Local Authorities and Integrated Care Boards, who, as evidenced by the Covid-19 pandemic, are not always held to account to ensure that funds reach frontline services. The Discharge Fund, while welcome, is insufficient and will fail to address the systemic pressures that drive issues for recruiting and retaining staff. Social care requires adequate levels of pay, training, and career progression. A complete re-think is essential if our sector is to flourish and I fear the necessary reform is not forthcoming.”