Chancellor Rishi Sunak has faced heavy critism over his complete failure to even mention social care in his budget statement on Wednesday, and for seemingly refusing to recognise the increased pressures felt by those on legacy benefits and also unpaid family carers.
The Chancellor announced that the furlough scheme and the £20 per-week uplift to Universal Credit will be extended until the end of September, as well as confirming that families on working tax credit will receive equal support through a one-off £500 payment.
Grants for the self employed will also continue to the end of September and will be extended to some 600,000 more people who missed out in the first few rounds. However, Labour said that millions of free-lancers and other self-employed workers will still miss out.
He also announced that the minimum wage will rise from April 2022 to £8.91 an hour for over 25’s.
However, he failed to respond to calls for the UC uplift to be extended to legacy benefits and there will be no increase in Carer’s Allowance for the country’s army of unpaid carers, who have seen the demand for care rise significantly during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said: “Despite his pledge to do whatever it takes to protect livelihoods through the pandemic, the Chancellor’s Budget statement completely fails to address social care and other essential public services and we are angry that no immediate or longer term support for social care, was announced. Without key social care services, some families will not be able to return to work.
“Families have been under huge strain, with 81% of carers taking on more care than before the pandemic, placing a huge toll on their health and finances.
“Throughout the pandemic they have gone above and beyond to protect our health and social care systems, many without having any breaks and support for an entire year. This has left significant numbers of carers at breaking point.
“They deserve to know what the Government is planning to do to address social care shortfalls now and that reform will address the longer term.
“We are deeply concerned that families, having borne the brunt of this pandemic will be expected to do more for longer if there are not continued critical social care funds in the new financial year. This is short sighted and unsustainable.
“Like many others, we will be urging Government to continue short term funding from April 2021 and to repeat its promise of bringing social care reform proposals later in the year.
“We welcome the extension of the furlough scheme until September 2021; this has been a lifeline for many working carers who have been unable to balance work and their caring responsibilities while day and support services have remained closed or dramatically reduced.
“While we welcome the £20 uplift to Universal Credit being extended for six months, we are extremely disappointed that the Chancellor has not provided any support for those on legacy benefits and specific support for carers.
“We asked the Government to introduce a £20 a week supplement to those entitled to Carer’s Allowance, without which many carers who are struggling to just make ends meet will continue to face significant financial hardship.
“Until there is long-term investment in social care, and increased support for carers, life will only become more difficult for the UK’s families.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK and Co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance said: “We are deeply disappointed that no immediate or longer term support for social care, so badly battered by the pandemic, was announced in the Budget.
“Experts have been warning about the sustainability of many smaller care companies for some time and unfortunately the Chancellor spurned this opportunity to give them a helping hand.
“The result may well be an upsurge in closures over the next few months, putting more stress and strain on older and disabled people & their unpaid carers, who have already endured so much.
“We and many others will also be seeking assurances that the lack of any mention of longer term care refinancing and reform does not reflect an intention on the part of this Government to renege on its repeated promise to ‘fix’ care by bringing forward concrete proposals later in the year.”
Anastasia Berry, Policy Manager at the MS Society and Policy Co-Chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium, said: “It is outrageous that over 1.9 million disabled people on legacy benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseekers Allowance, have been refused the same financial lifeline those on Universal Credit have been getting for nearly a year.
“How the Chancellor can stand up and say the Government’s response to COVID-19 has been “fair, with the poorest households benefitting the most” – when so many vulnerable are having to chose between heating their homes or eating – is beyond us.
“Government excuses so far have been at best feeble, and at worst actively insulting to those being pushed further into poverty.
“They must give people on legacy benefits the £20 per week uplift, and end this discrimination against disabled people immediately.”