Tuesday’s statement from the Chancellor has shown once again that the Government lacks the will to tackle a mounting national crisis.
Since Phillip Hammond delivered last November’s Budget, we’ve seen all too clearly how the pressures on social care and the NHS are not going to go away. Over this winter, there have been countless headlines about cuts to services and growing concerns about the sustainability of councils’ budgets. Some are now warning that they face bankruptcy, and the recent £150 million Government investment doesn’t even scratch the surface of the issues facing social care as a whole.
In spite of these worrying signals, the Government has once again chosen to avoid the elephant in the room. The only way to stop pressures on both social care and the NHS from getting worse is to plug the £2.5bn gap facing social care.
Without additional funding, it’s only a matter of time until the system as a whole is brought to a standstill, as one in 10 local authorities are now dipping into their reserves to deliver even the most threadbare services. Local authorities are facing ever increasing demand for adult social services, and yet for years have had to cut their budgets. In total, local authorities have seen their budgets cut by nearly half since 2010 (when inflation is taken into account) and people with MS, as well as other long-term conditions, are bearing the brunt.
The Government has recognised that the social care system isn’t sustainable and we’re looking forward to seeing its long-awaited proposals for how to fund social care in the future. We are hopeful these will deliver much needed long-term improvements for people living with MS in need of care and support. But they won’t come soon enough for those already feeling the effects of a chronically underfunded system.
We know that people with MS are struggling as services disappear at a growing rate, with families and unpaid carers having to pick up more of the cost and burden of care. Take David, who used to get a care package but had to give it up when the council increased the amount he had to pay to a rate he couldn’t afford. He now gets by on his own, relying on ready meals because it’s too dangerous for him to cut food or use the stove. Or Angela, a mother of two young children, who was told by her council only people who are in wheelchairs could get help. She relies entirely on her husband for support, but he’s at breaking point and she wonders if he needs to have a breakdown before they can get help.
David and Angela are among the one in three people with MS who need vital care and support are going without. The ramifications of this is even more pressure on hospitals and NHS staff, who are already stretched to the limit.
While we welcome the Government’s commitment to reforming social care, it will take years for improvements to have a practical impact, and people with MS cannot afford to wait any longer.
Today, the Government had the opportunity to provide the funding that’s urgently needed now to stop social care from grinding to a halt. Instead, people with MS will continue to pay the price for Government inaction.