The National Care Forum has reacted to Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement, in which he delayed the introduction of the social care cap until October 2025.
The chancellor’s decision - expected to save £1bn in 2023 alone - means that plans to cap the amount somebody will pay for their care at £86,000 while raising the means-tested threshold for paying for care to £100,000 (it is currently £23,500) will face an implementation delay of at least two years. The chancellor did, however, announced additional ‘grant funding’ for adult social care.
Responding to the Autumn Statement, Professor Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the NCF, said: “I fear that for the remainder of this parliament, the ambition for reform of social care has been put on the back burner. There is little in this budget that talks to the vision of developing care with people at its heart. Social care is about people, not packages and whilst discharge is vital, great social care changes lives and matters to us all, and it is imperative that over the next two years the government keeps its commitment to develop care that is fit for the future.
“All the money announced is of course hugely welcome as is the recognition that social care is vital and an integral part of the government’s public sector responsibilities. However, for the money to make a real difference it must address the fundamental inequities that people receiving care and working in the care sector experience every day. These relate to the pay, terms and conditions of the workforce, and access to the care that you want when you need it.
“It is right that our workforce deserves the increase in the National Living Wage (NLW), and much more in terms of reward and recognition. However, to realise this, the government must set out how it intends to fund councils to meet the full costs of the NLW increase for all of the care workforce. As having made a decision to delay the cap on care costs, and the introduction of a more generous means test, it would seem outside of the realms of compassion and fairness to require those funding their own care to continue to have to cross subsidise public sector care provision.
“Fundamentally, care and support services are so much more than the ‘discharge arm’ of the NHS. The government must start to recognise this. If the integration of health and care is to mean anything to the people who need care and support, we need a reframing of the priorities. Of course, we must support people to leave hospital well and safely to regain their independence and wellbeing, but the government and the Integrated Care Systems must also focus on those who need care and support long term, those who need earlier support to avoid a crisis and the army of carers, both paid and unpaid, delivering great care every day.
“Whilst this is a welcome recognition of the importance of social care, much more is needed to put the sector on a sustainable long-term footing, support people where and when they need it and enable providers to reward the care workforce in the way they deserve.
“In the face of such a fundamental squeeze on public sector funding, now is the time, more than ever, to invest in sustainable not for profit care and support to support our communities up and down the country.”