Budget 2020 roundup
On March 11, Rishi Sunak MP delivered his first Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
This year’s Budget focused on two major themes: short-term stimulus measures to reduce the economic impact of the coronavirus, and longer-term investment in infrastructure, including transport and housing. The Budget contained over £30 billion of new spending commitments in total, making it the biggest-spending Budget for many years.
However, there was disappointment for those hoping that the Budget would include proposals for long-term social care reform, as called for in the MND Association’s 2019 election manifesto. It was confirmed that last year’s announcement of an extra £1 billion of funding for social care will continue for every year of the current Parliament, but this level of funding can do no more than prop up a struggling system. The need for a new, sustainable funding system for social care remains as urgent as ever, but this difficult but essential task appears to have been delayed once again. There was also no mention of extra support for the millions of unpaid carers who provide essential care to people living with MND and other conditions.
More positively, the Chancellor announced a £6 billion funding boost for the NHS over the current parliament. The Chancellor also pledged that the NHS and social care services would receive all funding required to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and announced a £5 billion fund to help public services respond to the virus. The Budget also included significant new investment into research and development, including a 15% funding increase next year.
The Budget included an announcement of major investment into housing development, but no clear commitments on accessibility standards for disabled occupants. Given that the Government has promised to consult on new accessibility standards later this year, this was a missed opportunity to put accessible housing at the heart of the new investment proposals. We will be responding to the consultation, which is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks.
On welfare issues, the Budget included changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit due to the coronavirus. Contributory ESA will now be payable from the first day of time off work, rather than day eight. Universal Credit claimants will no longer be required to physically attend appointments with a work coach. In addition, Universal Credit advance loans, available during the five-week wait for the first payment, will now be paid back at a lower rate over two years rather than one. We continue to call on the Government to scrap the five-week wait altogether. If you or anyone you know requires assistance with Universal Credit then the Association has a dedicated benefits advice service. In light of the coronavirus the Government has also updated its advice for Universal Credit claimants.
Despite limited coverage within the budget, we will continue to campaign on the issues that matter to people living with MND, including welfare, health, social care, carers, accessible housing and research.