Today, Chancellor Philip Hammond set out the government’s financial plans for the year ahead in the 2017 Budget. Despite big hopes from charities and disability groups across the nation, there wasn’t much there to benefit the nation’s disabled people.
In terms of what is happening, the government has set out a £1.5bn package to address the concerns surrounding Universal Credit, and the seven-day waiting period for processing claims is being scrapped. From January onwards, claimants will get 100% advance payments within five days of applying for the benefit – so the first payment will take five weeks rather than the current six.
The government will also be extending the repayment period for advance payments, going from six months to 12.
They also announced an additional £2.8bn in funding for the NHS in England, as well as a £10bn investment fund for hospitals up to 2022.
And that is, essentially, where the positive steps end in terms of disability.
Perhaps one of the most disappointing omissions from this year’s Budget was surrounding social care. The government will not be putting any extra funding into care and support for disabled and vulnerable people in the UK.
The Budget has also ignored calls from disabled people and campaign groups to rethink the back-paying of overnight care workers, set to cost care providers millions of pounds.
Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, said: “This Budget that claimed to be investing in Britain’s future and that ‘cares for the vulnerable’, will leave many people with a learning disability, their families and care workers wondering if this is a government that really cares about them.
“The sleep-in funding crisis, caused by faulty government guidance on overnight shift payments cannot be ignored any longer. A new enforcement process is no substitute for a funded, responsible solution.
“Government must urgently make clear its intention to provide critical financial support for providers, who were simply delivering, local authority commissioned care services.”
And Mencap isn’t the only organisation to note the distinct lack of support within the budget for disabled people.
“Today’s Budget was reminiscent of the dog that did not bark: singularly silent on how the government will avert the funding crisis enveloping services for people with learning disabilities,” added United Response chief executive Tim Cooper.
“The Chancellor’s failure to address either the immediate funding gap that it has created around ‘sleep-in’ shifts or the longer term funding of services for people with learning disabilities, is deeply worrying.
“This shambolic situation represents the gravest challenge to social care that I have witnessed in my 30 years within the sector.
“Just as last week’s announcement of a long awaited Green Paper on social care excluded disabled adults, people with learning disabilities and complex needs have again been swept under the carpet in this Budget.”
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of the MS Society, said: “This Budget will come as a huge disappointment to people with MS. The additional NHS investment, while welcome, falls far short of the extra £4bn a year health leaders say is needed. This risks undermining not only recent exciting developments in MS treatments, but also quality and access to NHS services.
“The fact there is no more money for social care is even more alarming, and provides nothing to prevent the current crisis from worsening. The system desperately needs money now. Already one in three people with MS are struggling without the proper care they need.
“Unless the health and social care funding gap is addressed, people with MS, their families and carers will continue to pay the price for a system unable to cope with demand.”
Richard Crammer, deputy CEO of Sense, added: “Quite simply, the government cannot save the NHS if it delays dealing with social care. A well-funded social care system, equipped to deliver quality care to those all those who need it, is a vital element of a healthy NHS. Without this, the health system is left picking up after underfunded care services, unable to discharge patients because social care is unavailable, or deal with the consequences of those left without appropriate care and support. This is why it makes financial sense to invest in social care, alongside the NHS.”
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