Budget 2020: Massive increase in public spending but no action to address crisis in social care and rising child poverty

Date Posted: Wednesday 11th March 2020

Speaking in response to the Budget 2020 WBG Director Mary-Ann Stephenson said:

“We welcome the Government’s decision to borrow to invest in our country’s infrastructure, which is sorely needed after years of underfunding. But yet again the focus was on roads, rail and telecoms – we urgently need to recognise that social infrastructure such as health, education and care needs the same level of investment.

Coronavirus has exposed our threadbare social infrastructure – emergency funding now cannot make up for sustained underfunding over the last decade.

The Chancellor promised ‘whatever the NHS needs’ to deal with Coronavirus but with bed occupancy rates already above safe levels[1] and a shortages of nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers[2] there is no slack cope with the shock to the system that the Corona virus will cause in the next few weeks

The public health response to the Coronavirus also has to include social care, which provides care to older people, younger disabled people and people with long term health problems, all of whom are at greatest risk from Coronavirus. One in seven adults over 65 already have unmet care needs. Our social care system is in crisis following decades of under-funding – there was nothing in the budget on social care at all.

Women, particularly the poorest women, BAME women and disabled women have born the brunt of the cuts to spending on public services over the last ten years. Women are the majority of those using public services, and the majority of those providing them, paid and unpaid. Many of these services are provided by local government, but this Budget said nothing about how it will address the funding gap of £3.1 billion in 2020/21, increasing to £8 billion in 2024/25. Cuts to business rates will increase this gap.

For those hit hardest by austerity, levelling up doesn’t just mean improved public services, it means a social security system that will lift them out of poverty. 7 out of ten children and over half of adults  living in poverty are in a working household and have been hit hard by the benefits freeze, two child limit and 5 week wait for UC payments. There was nothing in the budget to address the poverty caused by these successive cuts.

We welcome the removal of the tampon tax, but the Chancellor said nothing about what would replace it as a source of funding for VAWG services, which it is estimated need £393 million a year” just for Domestic Violence services in England and Wales. 


[1] In the last quarter of 2019 the occupancy rate for general and acute beds was of 92.0%. Anything above 85% is reported to reduce patient safety.

[2] NHS trusts currently have 100,000 vacancies https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/nhs-vacancies-survey/february-2015—september-2019-provisional-experimental-statistics