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Following Wednesday’s Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021 announcement by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, leaders from across the health, social care and disability sectors are disappointed at the lack of investment for social care.

Some of the key investments from this year’s budget include £5.9 billion to help clear NHS waiting lists, £1.6 billion in new grant funding in each of the next three years for English councils, and the National Living Wage increasing to £9.50 an hour from April 2022.

However, leaders from a variety of influential organisations like the Health Foundation, ADASS, Local Government Association and Age UK have said that the lack of investment for the social care sector is ‘deeply disappointing’.

Health Foundation says that social care has missed out on vital funding in this review and that the recent Health and Social Care Levy won’t address challenges in the existing system.

Commenting on the Autumn Budget 2021, Charles Tallack, Assistant Director for the REAL Centre at the Health Foundation, said: “Yet again, adult social care looks to be one the biggest losers in [the] Spending Review. For a decade, social care funding has barely risen in real terms. While the recent levy will provide £5.4bn over three years to fund the new cap on care costs, this won’t address the challenges in the existing system.

“Today’s settlement for local government may be just enough to meet demographic pressures but will do nothing to tackle the high levels of unmet need, persistent workforce shortages and recruitment difficulties, and the precarious position facing many providers.

“To truly meet the scale of the challenge over the longer term, government needs to shift the focus to creating the conditions that keep people healthy in the first place. This means implementing a whole government approach that pla­­ces improving health at the front and centre of all major policies.”

Although the Spending Review 2021 has pledged grant funding for councils over the next three years to support local services, the Local Government Association (LGA) is also ‘disappointed’ that funding was not committed to tackle existing pressures.

Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, responded: “It is disappointing that the Chancellor has not provided additional funding to address existing pressures on adult social care services and not increased public health funding. We remain concerned that the money allocated to social care from the Health and Care Levy will be insufficient to fund reforms. The potential rise in local government core spending power over the next three years will also be dependent on councils increasing council tax by 3 per cent per annum.”

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has consistently cried out for a long-term plan and sustainable funding for the social care sector over the years. It highlights that the government’s failure to invest in social care crisis is “deeply disappointing”.

ADASS Vice-President Sarah McClinton remarked: “We are facing a perfect storm, with care staff quitting, family carers reaching breaking point, care agencies going out of business, and people with support needs waiting longer and receiving less care and support.

“While the additional £1.6bn a year in grant funding for councils is welcome, it will do little more than meet the costs of the rise in the national living wage for care workers from next April.

“We must have immediate investment so that the dedicated, skilled people providing care and support are paid a proper social care wage that can compete the retail and hospitality sectors.”

Age UK’s director has said that the Autumn Budget 2021’s lack of recognition for social care means its future remains as “uncertain as ever”. Caroline Abrahams also noted that the funding for local authorities is not ring-fenced for social care and will need to be stretched across council services.

She continued: “If the Prime Minister’s ambition to ‘fix social care’ is ever to be realised Rishi Sunak has to play his part by providing enough funding to make it happen. He hasn’t done so and therefore unfortunately, the future of social care remains as uncertain as ever, with the credibility of the Prime Minister’s promise increasingly on the line.”

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, echoed similar concerns to Caroline, saying that the consequences of not investing in the social care sector will be “serious and far reaching”.

He added: “Failure to support the sector will result in unprecedented demand on the NHS, a loss to local economies and of course a failure to deliver care to those most in need”.

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