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Autumn Statement Leaves Social Care “Left Out in the Cold Again”

SOCIAL care providers have again been left out in the cold worrying how they will meet the new minimum wage for their staff and struggling to survive, campaigners said today.

The crisis in social care was again ignored in the Government’s Autumn Statement, leaving providers facing an uncertain future.

The provider organisation The Independent Care Group (ICG) said the Chancellor could at the very least have put some funding into the pockets of local authorities to help meet an unexpectedly large rise in the National Living Wage.

ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “Another Autumn Statement and another kick in the teeth for social care. “Once again, an opportunity has been lost to make some inroads into the reform of social care that the country has been crying out for this past 30-plus years. It seems help for social care is just one of many issues sacrificed as the Government looked instead to cut taxes, ostensibly to get the economy moving but really with a view to the looming General Election.”

“Everyone, especially providers, wants to see the social care workforce properly paid – they deserve much more than that minimum wage. But it will have to be paid for. Providers had expected the increase to be to around £11 an hour but the increase to £11.44 is almost 10%, a huge extra financial burden for social care providers who are struggling to survive in the post-covid, high cost of living period we are struggling through.”

“Unless that increased minimum wage is matched by more generous funding for local authorities who can pass that money on to the social care providers they commission care from, the situation is going to get worse. We will see providers who are currently on the brink pushed over the edge by this increased cost. And that will mean a further loss of care provision at a time when we need it most.

“The Chancellor could at least have put some funding into the coffers of local authorities to address that.”

When Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was its Chair, the Health and Social Care Committee said social care needed an extra £7bn a year as a ‘starting point’.

The ICG had urged Mr Hunt to make good on that suggestion today.

Mr Padgham added: “Nobody knows better what is needed for social care than Mr Hunt himself and so we looked to him to tackle social care in the statement.

“Not for the first time we have been left disappointed, out in the cold and looking at an uncertain future.

“The crisis in the sector deepens, with fewer and fewer people getting care, less and less homecare, residential and nursing care available and delayed discharges from hospitals rising once again.”

Siva Anandaciva, Chief Analyst at The King’s Fund said:  ‘Today’s Autumn Statement appears to have offered nothing significant beyond the relatively small amount of additional funding for the health service recently announced, which we cannot pretend will be enough for the NHS to do everything needed to give patients the care they deserve and expect this winter. The government’s NHS funding announcements have now become caught in a vicious cycle of inefficient emergency cash injections and unrealistic expectations of what the NHS can deliver in return. To avoid the NHS facing a crisis every winter, ministers need to make long-term decisions that can bring demand, capacity, and efficiency back into better balance.

‘One area in desperate need of longer-term thinking is investment in health and care infrastructure, with the buildings and equipment maintenance backlog currently standing at £10bn. The government’s reported decision earlier this month to potentially raid limited capital investment budgets to prop up day-to-day services is a further indictment of the addiction to short-term thinking that has plagued the health service in recent years. Dilapidated buildings and outdated technology hinder productivity, harm staff and lower the quality-of-care patients receive.

‘Local authorities are also under intense financial pressure, with a forecasted £2.4 billion funding gap for 2023/24. The majority of council directors of adult social services are worried that they cannot fully offer the minimum social care support required by law, and new data published last week shows that the waiting list for people to have their care needs assessed is rising once again3. The increase to the minimum wage will be welcome for many people working in social care on low pay, but it will be vital that local government and social care providers are properly funded to meet these increased costs.

‘An increasing number of people are living with complex long term health conditions – impacting their quality of life, effecting demand for health and care services, and taking a toll on the economy where these people are unable to work. Good quality work can be good for people’s health, and policies such as the expansion of programmes that help people with severe mental illness to find and keep jobs are welcome. However, punitive steps such as removing access to free prescriptions may only risk worsening the health of these people, moving them further away from employment, and may lead to them needing NHS care further down the line, potentially with a more complicated or urgent condition. It’s a policy that could be storing up problems for the future.

‘To really get services back on track and show it is serious about improving the nation’s health, the government should build on its proposals to make England smoke-free and take further bold action to make health and care a more attractive career, bolster out-of-hospital care such as primary, community and social care services, and help people live healthier lives through a focus on prevention.’

Sam Monaghan, Chief Executive of MHA: “We’re disappointed that care for older people has once again been overlooked when it matters most. Critical services for older people are facing multiple challenges which urgently require the Government’s attention. As well as higher operational costs, due to increases in both inflation and energy prices, and an ongoing recruitment and retention crisis, people are also waiting far too long for social care assessments.”

“A recent report from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) found that 84,000 people have waited longer than 6 months for an assessment. Much of this is down to the budgetary pressures being placed on local councils. Without significant investment, these pressures will only continue to mount, with more and more older people requiring support at home or in care homes to prevent the need for hospital care.”

“The Chancellor has missed an opportunity to invest in these essential social care services and better support people’s care needs.”

“To safeguard the sector, MHA is proposing that the Government funds and enables the creation a Social Care Council – as part of our Fix Care For All campaign. This would act as an independent body, representing the 1.5 million skilled, professional people working in social care – examining issues such as pay scales, accreditation, training and recruitment. The Council would also invest more into changing public perceptions around what it means to choose care as a profession.”

“Social care is simply not being given the funding or attention it needs to meet these ongoing challenges. With a General Election looming, we hope the major political parties use their manifestos as an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to a social care sector that is fit for purpose.”

Kirsty Matthews, CEO of learning disability charity Hft, says: “Today’s Autumn Statement amounts to yet another disappointing Government announcement. This was an invaluable, but missed, opportunity to invest in the beleaguered adult social care sector. As highlighted by a recent National Audit Office report, the Government is behind schedule on its reforms and faces significant and continued pressures around unmet need, workforce shortages and finances.”

“This corroborates our own report, the Sector Pulse Check, produced in partnership with Care England, which revealed that cost pressures had forced almost one third of adult social care providers to consider closing altogether in 2022.”

“With this in mind, we welcome the National Living Wage increase to £11.44p/h, but implore the Government to ensure that local authorities receive sufficient funding to pay adult social care providers enough to cover this increased cost, without forcing cuts in other areas of care provision.”

“It’s high time the Government places forward a considered, long term funding plan for social care, with metrics to ensure that allocated money makes its way to the front line. Only then will our sector, our invaluable workforce, and those who draw upon our support, be able to plan for a stable and thriving future.”













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