The news has been dominated by stories about coronavirus in recent weeks, and the potential impact it could have across all levels of society. So it’s not surprising that coronavirus was a main focus of today’s Budget. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the Government is creating an emergency response fund to ensure the NHS and other public services have the resources needed to tackle the impact of coronavirus. Initially set at £5 billion, it will also support local authorities to manage pressures on social care and support vulnerable people.
Whilst we welcome this news, the social care system was long past reaching crisis point before coronavirus arose and requires both immediate funding and a long-term solution. Repeated cuts in recent years have taken a huge toll on essential services, leaving fewer and fewer people with access to the support they need to live day-to-day. The latest figures from the Local Government Association show that social care faces a funding gap of £810 million in 2020/21, rising to a staggering £3.9 billion in 2024/25.
Ever since his first speech on the steps of Downing Street, the Prime Minister has promised to “fix social care”, and yet we’re still waiting for a plan to emerge more than seven months later, and the 100-day deadline set out in the Conservative manifesto is fast approaching. So what do we at Sense want to see from the Government?
A solution for everyone who uses social care
The Government must provide the funding necessary to stabilise the social care system in the medium term, whilst working together with other politicians, social care providers and people with care and support needs to find a long-term solution. This must work for everyone, including disabled working age adults who are so often side-lined in discussions around social care.
Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has written to colleagues in all parties to initiate talks on social care, seeking a cross-party consensus to deliver much-needed reform. This is a welcome step and we too will be asking the MPs who work with Sense to encourage the Government to think about solutions that meet the needs of working age adults.
Every disabled child deserves the best start in life
Disabled children and their families aren’t getting the support they need, whether that’s respite breaks for carers or support with getting children up and ready for school. The Disabled Children’s Partnership, of which Sense is a member, reported that only 4% of parents and carers feel they have enough support to safely care for their disabled children. This is not good enough. Alongside other charities, we have written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, asking him to plug the £434 million funding gap.
As part of our work with the DCP, we are also asking the Government to invest in a Disabled Children’s Innovation Fund. This will focus on early intervention projects which provide support to the whole family to prevent disabled children from reaching crisis point. For example, this could be a buddying scheme which offers disabled children a chance to make friends and be active members of their communities while giving parents and carers much-needed respite.
Supporting children to achieve their full potential
It is simply not enough just to “get by”. Disabled children must be supported and enabled to thrive and achieve their full potential. Unfortunately, many of the children supported by Sense are hit by a triple whammy of a lack of investment in health and social care services, and the funding crisis in education too. Education outcomes for children with complex needs are often framed in terms of what support is available, rather than what they need to achieve the best start in life. Ad-hoc funding boosts are welcome, but they are often used to fill existing budget deficits, rather than invest in much-needed new services. The Government must deliver a long-term funding solution for children with SEND to provide continuity of support.
The last General Election campaign was notable for its lack of discussion around improving the rights and services for disabled people and, unfortunately, today’s budget was similarly lacking. The Government must not fail to tackle this key issue. It’s time to put disability at the heart of government policy, enabling disabled people to live full and dignified lives.