MND Association’s response to Budget 2017
The March 2017 Budget contained some positive measures as well as some glaring omissions.
Positive announcements included £2 billion of investment into social care in England, as well as the prospect of a Green Paper on a long-term funding settlement for the social care system, both of which are long overdue. However, the failure to mention welfare at all, or to provide any significant boost to NHS funding beyond some short-term capital projects, were both major disappointments.
Alex Massey, policy manager at the MND Association, said:
“We welcome the announcement of new investment into social care services, as well as plans for a Green Paper on social care funding in the autumn. It’s vital that the government now seizes this opportunity to deliver a new sustainable settlement to fund the services that millions of people rely on every day.
At the same time, the failure to include any mention of welfare benefits is a major omission that cause huge hardship to some of the most vulnerable people in society. By going ahead with its planned £30 a week reduction of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) payments, the Government is asking people living with disability and sickness to bear the burden of cuts. We urge the Government to listen to patients and reconsider this damaging change.”
We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of £2 billion of investment into the social care system in England over the next three years, including £1 billion to be available in 2017/18, which will provide some much-needed support to struggling local authorities. The devolved nations will also receive a budget uplift in line with the increase in England.
However, in the context of the funding and demographic pressures currently affecting the social care system, this is no more than a short-term sticking plaster. The King’s Fund estimates that the social care funding gap will reach £4 billion by 2021, as a result of an ageing population and the failure of successive governments to provide the system with the funds it requires.
The Green Paper on long-term social care funding later this year, which the Chancellor announced today, represents a crucial opportunity to deliver a long-overdue funding solution to deliver long-term sustainability across the whole of the UK. It must not be wasted.
In the context of one of the worst winters in NHS history, mounting demographic pressures, declining performance against key targets and numerous hospital trusts in deficit, the measures announced by the Chancellor are small in scale. They do not address the concerns expressed by the MND Association and other charities that ongoing funding pressure will lead to treatment rationing, particularly for rarer and more specialised interventions.
The Chancellor is right to identify delayed discharges as a major source of NHS pressure, but the new £100 million triage fund to improve discharge will make little impact without major improvements to over-burdened social care systems.
New £325 million worth of capital funding to support Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) in England will do little to address the ever-expanding NHS funding gap, which is estimated at £8 billion each year to 2021. The Government has shied away from grasping the nettle on delivering a new funding settlement to ensure the NHS can continue to meet the needs of those who rely on it.
Welfare and benefits were a glaring omission from the March 2017 Budget. The Chancellor has elected to burden some of the most vulnerable families with cuts to vital sources of support.
In particular, the decision to push ahead with the planned £30 a week cut to the work-related activity component of Employment and Support Allowance will have a severe impact on sick and disabled people who the Government has assessed as being currently unable to work.
The Disability Benefits Consortium, of which we are a member, state that almost 70% of sick and disabled people they surveyed say this cut to ESA would cause their health to suffer and just under half said they would probably not be able to return to work as quickly. In addition, the freeze to the basic ESA allowance will impact all claimants as their benefits fail to keep up with the cost of living.
The Budget’s failure to address these concerns will come as a huge disappointment to people living with disabilities, their families and supporters.