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07.03.17

Spring Budget: Hammond expected to unveil £1.3bn social care boost

Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to acquiesce to widespread pressures and announce a £1.3bn injection in the social care sector in tomorrow’s Spring Budget – a move which, if confirmed, would be in line with the priorities of more than three-quarters of MPs.

Media sources have been widely reporting that Hammond is due to invest over a billion pounds in the struggling social care market, a move broadly in line with the recommendations made in last week’s report from the Communities and Local Government Committee which called for £1.5bn to be brought forward.

The extra money, however, is expected to be funded from higher taxes elsewhere, such as a hike on cigarette duty and a speculated 3% rise to the national insurance bill of self-employed workers.

In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr at the weekend, the chancellor insisted that it was “not just about the money”, but nevertheless acknowledged that public services are under pressure and hinted at the possibility of new funding.

He argued there would be money to address the “short-term disparities” that currently exist in the system, such as differences between the best and lowest-performing authorities, but added that there was also “a case for taking a longer-term view to fund a service that is linked to the ageing demographic of the population”.

If fresh money is indeed announced for social care, it will be in line with the expectations of the majority of MPs. According to an LGA poll, 78% of the 152 MPs surveyed think that any additional funding should go to social care budgets.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, argued that the poll results showed that MPs and peers “of all political colours” are fully united with councils, charities, care providers and the NHS in the call for “urgent new funding”.

“We have long warned that social care stands on the brink of collapse, unless new money is announced by government,” added Cllr Seccombe. “The measures taken by government, such as the ability for councils to raise council tax to pay for social care, will not bring in enough funding to solve the social care funding crisis.

“We need a long-term, sustainable solution, not quick short-term fixes.”

In a briefing paper released shortly before last year’s Autumn Statement, the King’s Fund, Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust argued there should be an urgent priority to tend to the “critical state of social care”.

As a minimum, the think tanks argued, the government must recognise these pressures “by bringing forward to next year the additional funding that will be provided by the Better Care Fund (BCF) – planned to reach £1.5bn in 2019-20”.

But even beyond this, it is “obvious” that the care system needs “fundamental reform”, the bodies argued.

In a statement published today, Prof John Appleby, chief economist at the Nuffield Trust, said: “The chancellor ignored our call before the Autumn Statement both to bring forward the extra money from the BCF, and for the social care system to be fundamentally reformed. Almost nothing has changed since November, except that the funding gap in adult social care has now increased to around £2bn.

“This time round, the government must not miss another chance to address the mounting crisis in social care.”

But while the anticipated £1.3bn injection would be appreciated after a disappointing silence in the Autumn Statement, some health and care leaders might argue it still falls short of what is truly needed, with the sector heading towards a predicted £2.6bn blackhole in 2020.

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