Peers seek clarity to many unanswered questions on social care following ‘regressive’ budget

Peers have criticised “regressive” measures set out in the autumn statement enabling local authorities to receive more social care funding by raising council tax and delaying long-awaited reforms.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Budget will not relieve people experiencing “mental anguish” over excessive costs and inadequate care, members of the House of Lords said.

Instead, the Budget sent a “very clear” message that social care needs funding not in its own right, but to relieve the NHS, according to Baroness Andrews, chairwoman of the Lords Adult Social Care Committee.

She has written to Mr Hunt and Health Secretary Steve Barclay (pictured) asking them to address the “many” unanswered questions around the future of social care.

These include assurances over whether additional funding raised through increased council tax will be ring-fenced for social care, and clarification on how the impact of extra funding will be measured.

In his Budget, Mr Hunt confirmed that reforms promised by Boris Johnson’s government will be delayed for two years, including an £86,000 cap on personal care cost contributions and an expanded means test.

He also announced additional grant funding for social care of £1 billion next year, and £1.7 billion the year after.

This, combined with savings from the delayed reforms and “more council tax flexibilities”, will mean increases in available funding of up to £2.8 billion next year and £4.7 billion the following year, he said.

It will enable an estimated 200,000 more care packages to be delivered, he added.

Baroness Andrews said the Government must clarify the size and nature of these packages otherwise his statement is an “empty promise”.

She welcomed the extra funding but said it “does not constitute the sustainable and long-term investment that the social care system desperately needs”.

She added that raising funds through increased council tax is a “regressive solution which will not allow for a properly and sustainably funded system”.

The letter reads: “It does not translate as ring-fenced investment dedicated to adult social care. It is likely to create further inequalities from one locality to the next. In short, it is not a long-term plan for funding.

“Equally regressive is the Government’s decision to delay the long-overdue cap on care costs and extension to the means test.

“Although this is intended to unlock more funding for local authorities and provide them with breathing space, it also reflects the lack of a coherent strategy across adult social care.”

Baroness Andrews also criticised the lack of additional targeted support for unpaid carers, writing: “The evidence we heard showed, shamefully, that the families and friends that provide unpaid care and support for each other are at breaking point and we cannot afford to push them further.”

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