The Chancellor of the Exchequer presented his budget to parliament today (March 11), pledging £30bn to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, with no mention of the long-awaited social care reforms.
Aegon pensions director Steven Cameron, said it was ‘deeply disappointing’ to receive merely a ‘vague indication of how or when social care funding will be tackled’ in a budget packed full of ‘getting it done’.
Many in the sector hoped the budget would herald the beginning of the reforms, but the only reference came in the form of a reiteration of a pledge to invest £1bn of additional funding in social care next year, which was originally announced at Spending Round 2019.
Steven Cameron said: ‘In a budget packed full of ‘getting it done’, it’s deeply disappointing that we received only a vague indication, of how or when social care funding will be tackled.
‘While social care policy will rightly be led by the Health Secretary, its funding will have huge financial implications which will require the support of the Chancellor.
‘The Government needs to urgently set out a fair and sustainable system, ideally with cross-party support, detailing what the Government will pay and what individuals will be asked to fund themselves, based on their housing and other wealth. Individuals then need to be incentivised to plan ahead.
‘In our view, a cap on what individuals are required to pay is essential here to avoid the fear that ‘catastrophic’ care costs will wipe out their life savings and inheritance aspirations.
‘With social care increasingly needed in later retirement, defined contribution pensions offer a ready-made funding solution.’
In the half-an-hour speech, the chancellor said that NHS England will receive a cash increase of £34bn a year by 2024, as well as £6bn of new funding over this parliament which he said will create 50 million more GP surgery appointments per year and ensure there are 50,000 more nurses.
He announced the ‘tampon tax’ on sanitary products will be abolished, pledged £10m to support veterans with mental health needs.
He also set out planned changes to pensions tax rules that he said would ensure that NHS staff across the UK, including senior doctors, whose income is less than £200,000 can work additional hours for the NHS without their annual allowance being reduced.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
‘Covid19’s spread means the NHS is undergoing one of the greatest challenges in its 70 plus year history. The Chancellor’s pledge of £5 billion investment to support public services in tackling the virus, with the promise of more if needed, is, therefore, good news.
‘We do not yet know how great the impact will be, but the service is bracing itself for a significant shock.
‘It may not seem important, but the decision to tackle the pensions crisis affecting senior doctors is also a positive move – we have repeatedly called for action to address this because it was the cause of delayed and cancelled operations and clinics. In other words, patients were suffering.
‘Senior doctors were having to refuse to undertake extra work for fear of being hit with hefty or unexpected tax bills – even to the point where they could be worse off doing the extra work than doing nothing at all.
‘The Budget announcement should hopefully make this a thing of the past for the vast majority of doctors by lifting the pensions annual allowance taper. We need to look at the details in full but we are pleased that the government has listened to our entreaties which were motivated by our determination to protect patient care.
‘The extra £6bn investment in the NHS, as announced previously, is welcomed too but the devil will be in the detail on how this will be allocated.
‘Our remaining big concern today is the worry that the government is kicking the can down the road for social care. We fervently hope the cross-party talks announced last week will bring results and we repeat our plea that the Government must be prepared to deal with the crisis that is here and now, as well as tackling long-term reform.’
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