UK Policy Briefings
Spring Budget 2022: Social care and gender
Date Posted: Wednesday 9th March 2022
“Regional and income-based inequalities mean that the poorest local authorities are the ones with the greatest social care needs.”
The crisis in social care didn’t start with the pandemic, nor with austerity. Even before the financial crash, underfunding meant increasing numbers of people with unmet needs, others paying catastrophic costs for their care, an underpaid and undervalued care workforce, and increasingly unsustainable demands being put on unpaid carers. Regional and income-based inequalities mean that the poorest local authorities are the ones with the greatest social care needs.
The NHS is facing short-term pressure because of the pandemic but this should be addressed using funds financed by borrowing, not by the Health and Social Care Levy. Recurrent expenditure on social care urgently needs long-term funding: this cannot wait until the NHS no longer needs extra funds. The net costs of a reformed care system must be funded by central government from general taxation.
Expecting local authorities to increase funding on social care through council tax will inevitably widen regional inequalities. The Local Government Finance Settlement for 2021/22 included an additional £2.2 billion (4.5%) in core funding for Local Authorities, far short of what was needed. £1.9 billion of this is assumed to come from increases in council tax bills of up to 5%. Councils in more deprived areas are less able to increase council tax, meaning the communities with the greatest needs are the least able to fund their services.
The proposed ‘cap and floor’ model for allocating care costs between individuals and the state will absorb 90% of the increased funds that have been made available. Many people go without the care they need to avoid paying its costs. Families, especially women, are relied on for providing informal and unpaid care.
“The proposed ‘cap and floor’ model for allocating care costs between individuals and the state will absorb 90% of the increased funds that have been made available, and the government has put forward no clear plan for improving the quality of care and the treatment of care workers.”
The government has put forward no clear plan for improving the quality of care and the treatment of care workers and reducing unsustainably long hours of unpaid care. A truly universal care service for all who meet eligibility criteria, free at the point of need, would generate 466,000 jobs in the economy as a whole and cost £28.9bn gross annually, 19% of which will be recouped through additional revenues.
The Women’s Budget Group is calling for: a universal care service, free at the point of need, that provides high-quality care; supports wellbeing, self-determination and enhanced capacities; trains and pays its staff appropriately in line with the Real Living Wage; and ensures that unpaid care is genuinely voluntary. The briefing includes estimated costs, including a breakdown of elements.