Charities and service providers have given a mixed reaction to the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, welcoming investment in social care, but voicing concern over other areas such as capping benefits.
In the Comprehensive Spending Review, Chancellor George Osborne announced a new raft of cuts to be enacted from 2015.
In all, Osborne announced savings worth £11.5 billion, including cutting funding for local government – which provide social care services – by 10%.
However, Osborne also announced that the NHS budget in England is to rise by 0.01% to £110 billion and a joint £3 billion commissioning plan between NHS and councils for social care.
Elsewhere, the Chancellor announced a plan to cap the total spend on all welfare benefits – excluding the state pension – which will be set in cash terms every four years.
Jan Tregelles, chief executive of learning disability charity Mencap, welcomed the £3 billion investment in social care from 2015, but was concerned by the cap on benefits.
“We welcome the total £3 billion investment in social care, which will go some way to ending the care crisis that is seeing more and more disabled people denied the support they need,” she said. “However, we remain concerned that over 100,000 disabled people we and other charities identified in The Other Care Crisis report will not benefit from this, remaining shut out of the system without the support they need to live independent lives. We are also concerned that local authorities are facing a further 10% cut in their budgets, putting further pressure on their ability to maintain spending on care and support services.
“We are very concerned about plans to set a cap on benefits spending. This cap will include disability benefits, but exclude spending on the state pension. Disabled people have already faced £9 billion of cuts to benefits they rely on, with 600,000 fewer expected to qualify for the new personal independence payment, which is replacing disability living allowance, and over 400,000 facing cuts to their housing benefit through the bedroom tax. Disabled people of working age have borne the brunt of cuts, and the government is again targeting those who can least afford to lose out.”
Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of service provider Turning Point, also welcomed the investment in social care, but called for commissioning to be based on community need. “We need to make sure that the services provided for people with multiple complex needs, including those effected by substance misuse, mental health and learning disability, fit the individuals’ needs, not the other way round, if we are to address the gaps that exist. The distinction between health and social care is a meaningless one to the service user and we need to ensure we keep championing greater integration between the two.”
Lord Adebowale also raised concerns about a benefit cap: “The inclusion of a Government cap on disability and housing benefits is a real worry and puts extra pressure on health and social care when people do not have the support they need to live independent lives. I believe that the case for more adult social care funding is not just ethical, it is economic.
“What we need is an honest appraisal by this Government of cost; do cuts to social care and disability benefits actually save money or is the cost of caring simply shunted from one department’s budget to another’s?”