Care home groups have said homes may soon close after Chancellor Rishi Sunak omitted social care – devastated by Covid-19 – from his Spring Budget.
Umbrella groups and the Labour Party questioned why social care was not included in the fiscal statement yesterday despite Boris Johnson’s promise to fix the sector ‘once and for all’ in his first speech as Prime Minister.
They said social care was in desperate need of financial support as the £120m ring-fenced emergency funding allocated to social care in England in September last year was due to dry up at the end of this month.
In his response to the Budget, Labour leader Keir Starmer highlighted ‘the Chancellor spoke for more than an hour’ in his Budget speech but ‘we heard nothing about a long-term plan to fix social care’. The Budget red book likewise contained no mention of the sector.
Older people charity Age UK warned there ‘may well be an upsurge in closures over the next few months’ because of financial pressures.
Chief executive of the National Care Forum Vic Rayner said: ‘There is nothing in this budget for social care. Nothing that acknowledges the massive financial challenges affecting social care provision.
‘No recognition of the importance of investing in services that operate at a local level, employ local people and support the most vulnerable members of communities. Not even an acknowledgement of the incredible dedication and commitment of the social care workforce.’
Ms Rayner called on the Chancellor to ‘quickly address’ the lack of inclusion and the worry that ‘all ring-fenced emergency funding for Covid-19 comes to a grinding half on the 31 March’.
The Relatives & Residents Association agreed the social care sector had been ‘completely overlooked’.
The UK’s largest care home company, HC-One, has already said it will 52 homes – almost one in six that it owns – and close four more. And property consultant Knight Frank has warned in a report that 6,500 care homes totalling 140,000 beds at risk of closure over the next five years.
Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards warned: ‘Structural reform is now as important as reassurances on short-term funding and support, given the fragility of the provider market and the substantial challenges the sector continues to face.’
Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall tweeted that the Government made a ‘huge mistake’ in not including social care in the Budget, while the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said the Budget was a ‘missed opportunity’.
The Budget did include £1.65bn of new funding for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout programme to work towards all adults being offered a dose of the vaccine by 31 July.
In addition, it allocated £19m for domestic violence programmes to fund a network of respite rooms for homeless women.