Hft is disappointed at plans unveiled in Philip Hammond’s “final” Spring Budget. Despite recent comments in the media suggesting that the Chancellor would offer a decisive solution to the ongoing social care funding crisis, we were frustrated to instead see more government procrastination on this important issue.

In his Spring Budget, the Chancellor pledged an additional £2billion of funding for the social care sector over the next three years. By the Chancellor’s own admission, this funding was to act as a “bridge” before the Better Care Fund came online in 2018. Hft has long argued that the Better Care Fund, which is designed to cover both the Health and Social Care sector, is simply not enough to plug the funding gaps in both sectors. Similarly, this cash injection of £2billion over three years will be a drop in the ocean compared to the estimated £4.5billion the Health Select Committee recently claimed was needed.

Many private enterprises both inside and outside the social care sector will welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that Corporation Tax will fall to 17% by 2020, however for organisations such as Hft this will not offer any relief from our ongoing financial pressures. Unlike our for-profit counterparts, Hft is a charity, and is therefore exempt from paying Corporation Tax. Instead we invest any financial surpluses back in to our services and other charitable projects.

The announcement of a Green Paper set to comprehensively review social care funding is to be welcomed. However, Hft is concerned that a lengthy consultation will simply delay essential funding reform that the sector urgently needs. Ahead of the budget, Hft warned that, according to our research, three quarters of the learning disability sector will be running at a deficit by the end of this government. 55% of those surveyed claimed that they would be running at a deficit “within the next two years”. Our concern is that, for the majority of those in the learning disabilities sector, the conclusions of the planned Green Paper will simply come too late.

Outside of social care funding, Hft also noted that, for all his talk of creating an “inclusive economy”, there was no mention of the Government’s recent Improving Lives green paper, or indeed any mentions of ways in which people with learning disabilities will be included in this “inclusive growth”, or how the government plans to assist people into meaningful supported employment opportunities.

Mr. Hammond’s announcements come against the backdrop of revelations from BBC Surrey, which last night broadcast leaked tapes of the leader of Surrey County Council describing a “gentleman’s agreement” between Surrey County Council and the Government. The funding of vital social care services should be above politics. Hft therefore welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s call for the Prime Minister to “place in the Library of the House a record of all one-to-one meetings between the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Chancellor and any council leader or chair of social services anywhere in England.”

Whilst Hft will of course respond to the Green Paper consultation, and continue to enter into meaningful conversations with ministries and local authorities, this Spring Budget offers too little too late for a sector that even CQC recognises is now at a “financial tipping point.”

Robert Longley-Cook

Chief Executive, Hft