Spring Budget 2023

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, has unveiled the Spring Budget 2023, which outlines the UK Government’s plans for tax and spending policy in the UK but it has received a mixed response from social care organisations.

Among the headline announcements were a £27 billion tax cut for business, the scrapping of the Work Capability Assessment and the postponement of the increasing of the Energy Price Guarantee for three months, which will reportedly save every household an additional £160 on their energy bills.

New measures aimed at tackling economic inactivity and unfilled job vacancies across the country included the scrapping of the Work Capability Assessment. The Chancellor announced that there would be an extra £70m over the next five years for mid-life MOTs to increase participation eight-fold and £63m on Returnerships designed to provide skills training for older workers.

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Dr Carole Easton OBE, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “This Budget is a missed opportunity to adequately support workers aged 50 and above with specific policies but we commend the Chancellor for attempting to overhaul parts of the employment system that are seriously failing millions of people.”

Dr Easton stated that there are measures in the Budget that create opportunities to break down the barriers for older workers that have been overlooked for so long. She said that it was right to identify older workers’ employment as a high priority but she stated that the policies are “very light” on specific support tailored for the needs of 50+ workers.

She added: “The scrapping of the Work Capability Assessment creates opportunities for more people to get help and access work. But the reformed service has to connect with individuals who are not currently engaged with employment support – offering an incentive to engage, not pushing more people into a punitive regime.

“We would like to see the new Universal Support Scheme incorporating a national programme of employment support tailored for older workers. Only then will the Chancellor create the back-to-work movement for older workers.”

Gemma Hope, Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, a charity supporting disabled people to live, learn and work, commented: “Ending the punitive Work Capability Assessment is a positive sign that the government has finally listened to disabled people. However, the newly proposed Universal Credit health element could potentially leave some disabled people at risk of unfairly receiving lower payments, being forced to look for work when they can’t, as well as facing ineffective sanctions. The government must consult disabled people and those with health conditions when designing new systems, which must not penalise people who are unable to work.”

Max Parmentier, co-founder and CEO of home healthcare technology company birdie, stated that the Spring Budget has completely ignored the NHS and adult social care crisis and makes it clear “impactful change is unlikely to happen anytime soon.”

Health and social care sectors must now ignite true reform together, he stated. “We must start by accelerating the discharge process through increased communication between the health and social care sectors to leverage local care capacity.

“Secondly, we must take prevention seriously, with the NHS spearheading prevention initiatives and research at the Transformation Directorate level. And thirdly, we need to make the standardisation of data across health and social care a priority to ensure effective communication between the two sectors.”

The Autumn Statement announced £7.5 billion for the social care sector over the next two years, aimed at creating an additional 200,000 new care packages, supporting the discharge of people from hospital to ease NHS backlog, whilst also being split across adult and child services.

Gemma Hope, Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, commented: “The social care system is still on its knees with no extra funding announced when it is desperately needed. Disabled people of all ages are still left without vital support, due to the ongoing workforce crisis and years of inadequate funding. Every disabled person has a right to high-quality social care tailored to their needs. The government’s White Paper said it will put “people at the heart of care”. Now it must provide funding to deliver on that vision.”

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says: “Care England’s recent Fair Cost of Care analysis shows that, even with this funding, the deficit for older person’s residential and nursing home stands at around £2bn per annum.

“While the £7.5bn represented a step in the right direction, the Spring Budget was an opportunity to reinforce this progress and move towards a sustainable funding settlement for the sector.

“It was an opportunity that, unfortunately, the Government did not take, with a notable lack of any announcements targeted at the sector. Against the backdrop of 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 in the coming months.

“The NHS cannot survive in the long term if the social care sector is unsustainable. A political consensus must be forged on how to fund and support our vital sector sustainably over the long term.”

Professor Green also added: “With an ageing population and demand for services to increase, the Government requires a sustainable roadmap for the social care sector that will meet the country’s social needs and support the NHS in reducing waiting lists.”

The government confirmed an extension to Energy Price Guarantee for a further three months, limiting the energy bill for a typical household to no more than £2,500 per year, but Louise Yasities, elderly care expert at TakingCare Personal Alarms, felt that there was a significant lack of recognition around funding and support needed for the elderly.

Louise commented: “Even with the extension to Energy Price Guarantee, the cost of living poses more and more challenges, particularly for those relying on state pensions.

“The UK’s ageing population continues to be a challenge for the public sector, as its service delivery must pivot to ensure older people receive the care and support they need to live long, healthy and independent lives.

“It would be encouraging to see the government acknowledge the importance of this and start to implement the changes and investment needed to protect our elderly population.”

Gemma Hope, Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, added: “Although the Energy Price Guarantee remains at the same level, disabled people are still left out in the cold.

“Many disabled people are high energy users as they need warm homes to manage their conditions and they must charge vital disability equipment. In the year ahead, disabled people whose conditions necessitate high energy use will still face bills that are nearly £1,000 more than the average household

“The Budget fails to deliver targeted support for disabled high energy users. The government has missed an opportunity to introduce a Social Tariff – a concept supported by Ofgem, Energy UK and the majority of organisations working with people struggling with energy bills.

“Current support is simply not enough to cover these sky-high costs. The government must ensure disabled people are supported and not pushed into financial hardship.”

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