Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Spring Budget ‘ignores the needs of millions’, say disability campaigners

© UK Parliament

This week, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled the government’s Spring Budget 2024. Hunt says the Budget aims to grow the economy in the long term, but disability campaigners say it “ignores the needs of millions of people.”

During his speech in Parliament on Wednesday, the Chancellor made no mention of disabled people or unpaid carers who provide vital support.

While he announced £105m of funding for more SEND provision, disability charities say the package of measures falls short and fails to provide support for the most vulnerable people in our society.

A Budget for ‘long term growth’

The Spring Budget includes an array of measures designed to boost the economy and reduce inflation. This includes:

  • Cutting the national insurance contribution rate from 10% to 8% from April.
  • Keeping day-to-day public spending at 1% above inflation, despite speculation it would be cut to 0.75%.
  • Consulting the public on child benefit rules which will evaluate whether the benefit should be applied to collective household incomes rather than for individuals, with the threshold for a high-income tax charge on the benefit raised from £50,000 to £60,000.
  • Extending the household support fund to help families throughout the cost-of-living crisis for a further six months.

The Chancellor also announced other measures to help small businesses, extra funding for the arts and new duties on alcohol and vaping products.

But campaigners say that the government has, once again, overlooked social care and failed to provide extra support for disabled people and unpaid carers.

Spring Budget does ‘nothing’ to put social care on surer footing

Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) says: “Today’s budget ignores the needs of millions of people, by failing to invest in social care.

“Whilst investment in early years and SEND is welcome, to continue to overlook social care is to cut essential services for disabled people and their families.

“The current system is unsustainable. Local government is unable to fund the services people need, and today’s Budget has done nothing to put the sector on a surer footing.”

Dr Hughes says charities need to see social care fees increase by 12% in 2024/25, but uplifts for next year are falling short of this. This will result in a loss of support for those who desperately need it, such as disabled and older people.

Steve Veevers, CEO of learning disability charity Hft, has echoed these concerns, and says it is now “highly unlikely” local authorities will be able to pay fees which sufficiently cover the cost of care, leaving providers to foot the bill.

“During the Sector Pulse Check survey, providers told us that, as a consequence of cost pressures, they have had to hand back contracts, offer care to fewer people and, in some cases, have considered exiting the market altogether. This uncertainty is simply not acceptable.

“The adult social care sector remains the poor cousin to the NHS as highlighted by the significant investment announced today for the health service, but nothing for social care,” he said.

Hft is now urging the government to rethink its stance on adult social care funding and provide more security by ringfencing measures so that funding reaches providers who are delivering vital support.

Unpaid carers ‘forgotten’ once again

Carers UK has also voiced their concerns regarding the lack of support for unpaid carers. Tamara Sandoul, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK said the Spring Budget is “incredible disappointing” and unpaid carers on low incomes will be “devastated” to see that they have been forgotten.

“It is unacceptable that unpaid carers continue to face acute financial hardship, particularly given the high level of support they provide for ill, elderly, and disabled friends, is so vital in helping to ease the pressure on our overstretched health and social care system.

“The Government may be facing tough choices on spending, but unpaid carers – particularly those receiving Carer’s Allowance – are making even tougher choices.”

Ms Sandoul says the government has missed a key opportunity to support carers to work by failing to provide a Work Allowance for those on Universal Credit, and not increasing the earnings limit for those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.

“The Government must recognise the link between caring and poverty by putting robust measures in place for proper support. A review of Carer’s Allowance, the lowest benefit of its kind at only £76.75 per week, is long overdue and must be a key priority for the next Government,” she said.

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