Jeremy Hunt made no mention of the UK’s crisis-hit social care sector in his Budget speech
Anger is growing at the lack of action in the Budget to reform a social care system on the brink. Campaigners and experts said Chancellor Jeremy Hunt made no mention of the crisis-hit sector on Wednesday, leaving critics to declare: “The cavalry isn’t coming!”
This is despite millions of older people waiting for care, thousands dying before getting any help and the catastrophic care costs paid by those in the system.
And fury was fuelled by figures showing 42 per cent of care homes have closed a part of their organisation or handed back contracts to local authorities because of high costs.
Professor Martin Green OBE, boss of Care England, the biggest group of care providers, said adult social care appeared to fall down the list of priorities in 2022.
He added: “This week’s spring Budget was another opportunity to move towards a sustainable funding settlement for the sector.
“It was an opportunity that, unfortunately, the Government did not take. Amid a workforce crisis and rising vacancies, the rising cost of living and increasing energy costs, the stabilisation of the adult social care sector should be the Government’s priority.”
Max Parmentier, co-founder of home health technology company birdie, said: “The cavalry isn’t coming. This Budget completely ignored the NHS and adult social care crisis, making it clear impactful change is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
“Millions of older people are waiting for care across England. Thousands have already died without getting the care they needed. Waiting for meaningful change from the Government will only lead to more tragedies.”
Last November Mr Hunt slammed the brakes on introducing a £86,000 cap on catastrophic care costs which forces pensioners to sell their homes to pay.
The social care reform was postponed by two years to October 2025.
Sarah McClinton, of the Association of Directors of Adults Social Services, said Mr Hunt had missed an opportunity.
She said: “We need a long-term, fully funded plan that meets the needs of older and disabled people and their carers and addresses the staffing crisis.
“We estimate that means another £7billion this year and £9billion next year.”
Care England’s annual report found social care “on the precipice” on rising costs.
More than eight in ten care providers were either in deficit or saw a drop in profit last year. Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “The Chancellor’s avowed aim is to remove barriers to work among the economically inactive.
“But every year many thousands of women and men of working age have to ditch their jobs to care for loved ones, in the absence of a good, reliable and affordable care service being available.
“Until the Government acts on social care the numbers of people in their fifties and sixties leaving the workforce to care are certain to grow.”
‘The system is a joke…it desperately needs reform’
Norman Phillips calls the social care system a “joke” after resorting to calling 999 for his dementia-suffering wife.
The 71-year-old former IT boss gave up work in 2008 to look after Rosamund, 72, who also has multiple sclerosis and other health problems.
The couple, from Stevenage, Herts, have spent their savings and money from the sale of their home to meet care bills. They now rent a council-owned two bedroom bungalow.
In January Rosamund was in agony and Norman was eventually forced to call 999 for an ambulance.
Norman Phillips calls the social care system a ‘joke’
Norman said: “After a week of increasing pain and approaching the GP several times, the district nurse and dialling 111 – which never returned calls – I was forced to call the emergency number.
“Ros was whisked off to hospital where they found she was on the verge of suffering a perforated bowel.
“She had three days in hospital at huge expense to the taxpayer and where she was very upset and disoriented.
“The social care system is a joke. There’s no joined-up thinking. Older people are left to struggle on alone, and then the situation is made even harder because the health professionals no longer want to leave their offices.
“The district nurse was trained and experienced but she didn’t want to accept any responsibility. She said the doctor had to take the responsibility but the doctor wouldn’t come out.”
The couple struggle on their state pension supplemented by a small private pot. Norman, a grandfather of two, added: “It was disappointing that there was nothing about social care funding or reform of the system mentioned in the Budget.
“Last year I was worried about the triple lock on pensions and we were pleased then that Jeremy Hunt kept it in place. At least there was none of that worry this time round.”
COMMENT BY JAN SHORTT
It is shocking that the Budget had no firm or clear resolution to the crisis in care services.
Pensioners are being denied the help they need just to survive every day. They are dying through lack of access to appointments and treatments.
There is no commitment by this government to properly invest in care provision, even though they know it is right.
The focus on getting older people back into work needs much more than skills training – it needs the Government to confront employers about their ageist attitudes. There is no recognition of the knowledge, skills, experience or work ethic that older people can bring.
Older people still in work must be treated with respect and dignity, particularly if they suffer ill health.
The abolition of the Lifetime Allowance for pension savers will only help a very small number – yet 90 per cent of the population will not even have enough to retire on.
While the Government has extended energy support, there is little understanding that older people use their heating all year due to health problems or their badly insulated homes.
The Budget was hugely disappointing for millions of older people still struggling to meet rocketing bills, with an inadequate state pension.
The Chancellor spoke of providing a “safety net for older people” but you would be hard-pressed to find it in the detail.
- Jan Shortt is the General Secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention.