With the arrival of spring comes the main political and financial set piece of the year. Once again, the Chancellor’s annual budget is looming large on the horizon, and with it intense speculation about the contents of his famous red box.
With the Government continuing to tighten up on public expenditure, the budget is a key moment for charities, such as Sense, to fight for the support the people we represent so desperately need.
For Sense, this budget is about funding for social care.
The number of people needing social care but not receiving it has been increasing over the last five years as local authority funding has decreased.
A recent report found that older people with sight loss have been disproportionately affected by this. In the years between 2008/2009 and 2012/2013, there was a 36.5% reduction in social care services to older people with visual impairment – of which approximately 12,415 blind or partially sighted older people (65 and over) missed out on receiving vital social care services to help with everyday basic essential daily living tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and getting out and about.
There is a clear knock-on effect of not properly funding social care, with health expenditure having to increase to ensure the continued provision of the necessary services. This puts even more strain on NHS budgets and, essentially, the Treasury.
Long term costs and consequences
Tax payers will suffer in the long run if social care is neglected – at a time when prevention is a high government priority, preventative services are actually being cut back, leading to more costly interventions being required in the long run.
For example, a deafblind older person who doesn’t receive communicator guide support may be at higher risk of falls or not leave the home at all. This will impact on exercise, social stimulation, healthy eating, and wellbeing.
There is no doubt that without sustained and substantial additional funds, the current capacity for adult social care services will soon be unsustainable.
With this in mind, Sense lobbied hard in the run up to the Autumn Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) last November, and were delighted that it included a very welcome recognition that more money was needed for social care.
However, we are concerned that the money promised is significantly below what is needed, and definitely not enough to fill the current funding gaps.
With Sense and deafblind activists having been integral to the creation of the Care Act, we will now push to ensure that local authorities actually have the tools and support they need to implement it.
So, as this year’s budget gets closer, Sense will be calling on the Chancellor to ensure that the vital support the health and social care sector so desperately needs is provided in reality.
That starts with the budget, and the contents of that red box.