1. Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
Good news? Okay… the Chancellor has announced a £3.8 billion investment – including £2 billion of new money – in social care: the support disabled people get from their council to get up, get washed and dressed, and live independently.
The official document says, “This shared pot includes an additional £2 billion from the NHS and builds on the existing contribution of around £1 billion in 2014–15, with the aim of delivering better, more joined-up services to older and disabled people, to keep them out of hospital and to avoid long hospital stays”.
Here’s why this cash is welcome. The social care system is on its knees. Cash-strapped councils have been upping the bar for support eligibility, with 83% of councils now setting the threshold at a higher level. According to London School of Economics 69,000 disabled people have been pushed out of the system.
At the same time councils are squeezing the support for those that are in the system. A Scope survey found almost 40% of disabled people who continue to receive social care support are not having their basic needs met including eating properly, washing, dressing or being able to get out of the house.
Take away the preventative support and people fall into crisis. Have a listen to Angela Murray explain why social care is so important to her.
2. The ‘how’ is really important
Given that we now also know that councils are facing a further 10% cut in their budgets, a crucial piece of detail is how the cash gets to frontline social care. ADASS have said that previous injections of cash have instead disappeared into the black-hole of council budgets.
The documents talk about pooled budgets and NHS money being made available to councils through ‘local health and care systems’, which – in an exclusive for the HSJ – Jeremy Hunt explains will be achieved through Health & Wellbeing Boards. A cross-part panel of MPs and Peers recently argued that this would give it a better chance of reaching the people that need it. The official document explains that the Government is “putting £3.8 billion in a single pooled budget for health and social care services to work more closely together in local areas, based on a plan agreed between the NHS and local authorities”.
3. Britain Cares about social care
Today’s spending review announcement follows six months of campaigning. The innovative Stephen Fry-backed Britain Cares campaign, has seen over 25,000 people contact their MP about social care for disabled people – a thousand of who have sent personalised photos to show they care.
At the same time a young disabled woman from Luton – and former volunteer of the year – Angela launched a petition on Change.org which has received more than 45,000 signatures. She handed it in to 11 Downing Street on Monday.
4. But don’t celebrate just yet
The crucial question is now who gets care and who doesn’t. The announcement comes as the Care Bill is debated in the Lords over the coming week. The reforms seek to tackle the crisis in care by introducing a cap on costs, a new means-testing threshold and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care.
But under the current plans – reiterated in the Spending Review – the Government will raise the bar for eligibility to social care to a level which London School of Economics (LSE) says will leave 105,000 disabled people with significant needs outside of the system altogether. They need that support to live independent lives. Without it, they are left isolated and in crisis.
5. And the really bad news…
The Government was briefing that there would be no further cuts on welfare. But that’s exactly what a cap on so-called Annually Managed Expenditure could mean. AME is Government spending which includes welfare and state pension bills. The Government is capping about half the budget. The Chancellor confirmed this will definitely include benefits for disabled people.
This means that regardless of how many disabled people need financial support, if the public finances take another nose dive, the Government could pull the plug on support for disabled people just when they really need it. This is ludicrous. Some disabled people will always need financial support. It doesn’t make them scroungers or skivers.
6. But let’s end on a positive note
The Chancellor committed to continue to spend £350m on employment support for disabled people. This mainly funds Access to Work and Work Choice. This support is especially important when you consider the growing consensus that the Work Programme (not linked to this funding) isn’t effectively supporting disabled people and ESA claimants. This will come to a head when the DWP publishes performance statistics for the Work Programme on Thurs June 27th. It’s becoming ever more clear we need new solutions for getting disabled people into work.
With every Spending Review there’s is a lot to take in. But at a time when the Government is bringing in £11.5bn of cuts, an investment of £3bn into local support for disabled people is certainly good news.