Social care boss discusses government spending reforms
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Boris Johnson announced in early September a Health and Social Care Levy would be introduced from April 2022 in a bid to cover NHS backlogs and caring costs. However, many have condemned the Prime Minister’s plans for failing to tackle some of the key problems associated with the care sector. According to analysis from the Bath and North East Somerset Carers’ Centre, 13.6 million unpaid carers will be excluded from the bill and its benefits.
This means the Government is failing to support “a body that has saved the Treasury £135billion in the last 18 months.”
The number of unpaid carers in the UK increased by four million since the start of the pandemic and David Trumper, CEO of the Bath and North East Somerset Carers’ Centre stresses if this “hidden army” within the wider social care network doesn’t get the support it needs, the changes to other aspects of health and social care will “simply fail.”
“The Bath & North East Somerset Carers’ Centre welcomes the Government’s £36billion investment in the NHS and social care via the new levy,” he said.
“But while we recognise the funds promised may help the NHS tackle the backlog of cases caused by the pandemic, there is still no increase in financial support for the millions of unpaid and paid carers across the country. This is both disappointing and a missed opportunity.”
According to analysis from the Bath and North East Somerset Carers’ Centre, one in eight people in the UK are providing unpaid care for a friend or family member, and this number is rising at a “frightening pace.”
Mr Trumper went on to criticise the Government for not offering more support through the existing benefit system.
“On our first reading of the government’s new social care plan, there appears to be a complete lack of financial aid for unpaid carers, particularly if the Carers’ Allowance remains at a paltry £67 per week,” he said.
“There’s also no recognition or plan to support respite care for carers, many of whom haven’t been able to take a break from caring during the pandemic.
“Finally, what practical support will be made available for unpaid carers? Will there be a light at the end of the tunnel for these families that are struggling to cope and are being pushed to breaking point? We need specific detail on these questions now, to enable us to support the 20,000+ unpaid carers across Bath and North East Somerset alone.
“As the Government plans to heal the negative health impacts of the pandemic, it is vital that unpaid carers, of all ages, are not left out of the debate. Caring responsibilities can damage a carer’s employment, schooling and financial opportunities as well as affect their mental health.”
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“We are being treated as second class citizens”
To illustrate how damaging the Government’s actions could be, the Bath and North East Somerset Carers’ Centre shared the story of Sophie Sidonio, a mother who gave up her career to look after her son, Kenzo.
“I had to give up my career to be an unpaid carer for my son and find it devastating that the long-awaited review of social care funding has ignored the plight of unpaid carers in families who are doing the right thing and looking after their own,” she said.
“The Government continually ignores and undervalues unpaid carers, demonstrated by the lack of uplift for the Carers Allowance. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that the health and social care levy was just another example of this. It will do nothing to support unpaid carers directly, nor will it provide local authorities appropriate levels of funding to adequately provide for their and their cared for person’s needs.
“Why is the new £36bn Levy not providing more practical support, respite breaks and funding for unpaid carers? We are being treated as second class citizens despite unpaid carers saving the government the equivalent in care costs of £135billion since the first lockdown”
What did Boris Johnson announce?
In a speech delivered to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister laid out how these plans will be funded, while assuring the Government was listening to carers.
Mr Johnson detailed: “From next April we will create a new, UK-wide, 1.25 percent Health and Social Care Levy on earned income, hypothecated in law to health and social care, with dividends rates increasing by the same amount.
“This will raise almost £36 billion over the next three years, with money from the levy going directly to health and social care across the whole of our United Kingdom.
“This won’t be pay awards for middle management, it will go straight to the front line at a time when we need to get more out of our health and social care system than ever before.”
Mr Johnson went on to assure the Government was committed to reforming long-term care issues which have plagued the UK for many years.
“And as we fix this long-term long-standing problem in social care, we will also address the fears that many have about how their loved ones will be looked after, by investing in the quality of care, in carers themselves, and by integrating health and care in England so older people and disabled people are cared for better, with dignity, and in the right setting,” he said.
Are more tax increases coming?
While the Prime Minister noted the changes to tax and National Insurance rules will be spread as fairly as possible, many experts in the field warned specific segments of the population would struggle with the alterations. Specifically, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) noted the changes would make it “almost impossible to work as a freelancer”, while others warned young workers may be hit at the expense of the elderly.
On top of this, many fear more sweeping changes could be introduced in the next Budget. On September 7, Rishi Sunak confirmed the next Budget will be delivered on October 27, as the Chancellor noted: “Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve delivered on an unprecedented scale to protect people’s jobs and livelihoods.
“Despite the worst economic recession in 300 years, we have not only got people back into work through the Plan for Jobs but continued to deliver on the priorities of the British people. At the Spending Review later this year, I will set out how we will continue to invest in public services and drive growth while keeping the public finances on a sustainable path.”
While it is not known what will be announced, many experts fear Mr Sunak will target pensions, Capital Gains Tax or Inheritance Tax to cover ongoing coronavirus costs.
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