As expected, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a 2018/2019 budget
that did little to reassure the care industry and its users.
Falling outside the government’s pledged NHS spending commitment, the
Chancellor committed additional funds to social care for both this year’s budget
and the 2019/2020 budget. Prior to this, the government had previously
committed to the provision of funding worth £240 million for social care and
support via local charities. The idea is that through additional spending, more
NHS beds would be freed over the winter months by providing more effective
and accessible care in the community.
In addition, £240 million in winter pressures money was promised by the
Chancellor to councils across the country for the 2019/2020 year.
The above comes alongside a further £410m in social care funds pledged to
councils across the UK for the same 2019/2020 year. The funds have been
earmarked to improve social care services for children and the elderly alike.
However, it has been left to the local authorities themselves to make difficult
decisions as to how these budgets are allocated and prioritised. Going by current
spending patterns, this would mean that the total increase in social care
spending over the next year will come out at 2.9%.
Advocates have praised this 2.9% real-terms increase as welcome news for the
social care system in the UK. However, critics have pointed out how the 2.9%
increase doesn’t come close to augmenting rising pressures of 3.7% annually. It
has also been labelled insufficient spending commitment to address essential
quality improvement requirements that perpetuate across Britain’s social care
Additional pressure is likely to be placed on local authorities due to rising staff
costs, which are increasing at a much faster rate than inflation. The national
living wage is once again set to increase from £7.93 today to £8.21 in April next
year. This alone will have a marked impact on the extent to which the
government’s 2.9% spending increase makes any real difference for the social
Recent calculations by economists project a social care spending gap of at least
£1.5 billion by 2020/2021. Even with a further £55 million in disabled facilities
spending, it’s unlikely the Chancellor’s budget will make so much as a dent in
the growing deficit.
As for what all of this means for the British public, adults and elderly care costs
look set to rise once again. Care homes across the UK may have little choice but
to significantly increase costs, in order to cover their own rising expenses. If the
money isn’t provided courtesy of the government, it needs to come from
somewhere – directly from the pockets of residents and customers.
This is unlikely to resonate positively with those who already struggle to meet
the costs of professional care. It also goes some way to explain the
growing popularity of at-home care, as an affordable alternative to permanent
residence in a care facility.
There’s still technically time for modifications to the Chancellor’s budget to be
finalised and implemented. At this point in time, however, the likelihood of this
occurring is minimal.