National Dementia Action Alliance responds to the Budget 2018
Prior to the Budget 2018 Theresa May had announced that the age of austerity was over and a fair bit of the information that would be released was made available to the press prior to Phillip Hammond's speech on Monday 29 October. Over the weekend The Times and The Guardian had reported on a commitment to funding of up to £1 billion for social care. In the end the actual figure was £650 million of funding as well as the £240 million additional funding for social care that was announced in September.
The NDAA is pleased to see the government committing more money to social care. However, in a similar way to many of our members, we feel that much greater investment is needed to cover the shortfall in adult social care. People living with dementia and their carers are hugely affected by this because of the long term nature of the disease and the high cost of care. Many people are forced to cover this on their own or have seen cuts to services that could support them through their care.
We now also know a bit more detail on the funding that has been committed and in fact only £240m of the £650m is specifically for adult social care. The rest of the funding will be apportioned out by each local authority across all social care departments including children’s services. This means adult social care will be competing for priority and those pressured decisions are again passed to local government as they were throughout the period of austerity. That competition for priority is one adult social care will struggle to win without a national policy despite the well-known and long-term problem of our aging society and people with dementia are hit hardest by that.
This amount has been described by our members as ‘sticking plaster’ and to ‘only just stave off total collapse’ and so while we are pleased to see the investment it does feel like a solution for the short term. All of this increases the anticipation and importance around the Government’s Social Care Green Paper due before the end of the year in which we’d hope a long term plan will be devised. For example we’d like to see proper funding given to social care teams specialising in mental health to provide support to people in communities. Investment in preventative work like this could ease pressure on the NHS and mean less need for mental health professionals at A&E departments as has been suggested so people have less need to go to A&E with long term mental health conditions. This issue is very important to people living with dementia as the provision of effective and person-centred support around diagnosis and care would help to ensure they don’t end up having to visit A&E for that care.
Overall, for all the conclusions we can draw from this budget there are some monumental caveats with the first of those being the Social Care Green Paper already mentioned. That paper will reveal the Government’s long term plan for social care which will include the integration with health and so we await the publication of that and urge the Government to give dementia the priority it requires as the country’s biggest killer. The other issue to be resolved is the rather large one of Brexit and the outcome of those negotiations will have an impact on all the plans set out here and may mean an emergency budget at the start of 2019. It’s our hope that this initial acknowledgment of the investment and commitment to social care can be maintained and increased as the post Brexit landscape emerges.