The Chumbawumba moment for social care was well and truly missed!
Along with the rest of the country, social care has been well and truly knocked down by COVID-19. However, there was nothing in this budget that will help the thousands of organisations providing social care, the hundreds of thousands of people employed in social care or most importantly the millions of people who receive care and support each and every day – to get up again.
For a budget that proudly announced it was good for business and good for people, sadly at this moment, that feels far from the truth for social care. Of course, we know the government will suggest that the specific pressures for social care were ‘dealt’ with in the spending review – the one that was conducted prior to the devastation of the second wave of coronavirus.
And indeed that we are promised that the ‘reform’ of social care will come later in the year. However, to take no action in this budget to address the immediate and urgent financial pressures facing social care providers seems both reckless and perverse.
We listened to the Chancellor expecting , as a minimum, to hear about extensions to the ring fenced emergency funding for care providers to cope with operating in a COVID-19 world, which all end on the 31st March. The extension of the furlough scheme was announced, which while helpful, will only cover a small part of the huge COVID related costs of providing care over the coming months….
The subsequent silence was deafening – there was no mention of social care in the budget speech nor is there in the 107 page accompanying document. Why we ask? If the government is seeking an investment led recovery, why are there no plans to invest in the services that we know are going to continue to need staff, will need to respond to significant levels of demand as we see the impacts of COVID-19 in the longer term and that can help grow and sustain local economies. Where is the urgency of supporting vulnerable people to live well through the ongoing challenges of COVID-19? Where is the reward and recognition of the social care workforce?
Where is the recognition that social care matters enough to merit investment? It matters to the millions of people who need it every day; to the 1.5 million strong workforce who provide it; to the 18,000 organisations providing it and to the country more widely – so it should matter to the government too.
As ever, we are ambitious for social care , so we will have to pick ourselves up again and look to see what – if anything – can be retrieved from this Budget. There may be opportunities in terms of the apprenticeships and traineeships programmes for helping to sustain the care workforce; the Help to Grow: Digital programme may have something to offer our social care SMEs and the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme will help our small and medium-sized employers across social care.
However, our urgent asks of government remain. We need:
- Immediate assurance in relation to extension of the Infection Control Fund, Rapid Testing Fund and Workforce Capacity Fund. These COVID-19 costs won’t vanish on 31 March and neither should the funding
- Immediate confirmation of the detailed timescale for the full scale reform of social care
- Long term investment in social care so it can play its part in supporting economic recovery as well as helping people to live their best lives
- Clear direction of how the unringfenced £1.55 billion available for local authorities to manage the immediate and long term impact of the pandemic, as outlined in the Spending Review, should be available to cover additional COVID costs of social care
Ultimately – we need the government to be ambitious for social care. We are… why aren’t they????
Vic Rayner, Executive Director, National Care Forum