Our response to the Autumn Statement
We were left feeling extremely frustrated and let down by the recent Autumn Statement.
Despite the Government promising reform of Adult Social Care in the General Election of 2019, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that the long-overdue reforms and introduction of a lifetime cap on care costs (as per the Dilnot Report in 2011) will now be delayed by a further two years.
The increase in the ‘Cost of Living Payment’ to £900 is positive, but it makes the low level of £150 for the ‘Disability Cost of Living Payment’ seem even more measly, despite the increased energy needs and increased equipment costs that disabled people are having to pay for. And although the commitment to increase means-tested forms of social security in line with the rate of inflation of 10.1% was very welcome, because it won’t come into effect until next year, it will still leave many in the SCI community struggling with ever-increasing bills through this winter – especially when they will now be faced with yet higher energy prices due to the Government raising the energy price cap by another £500.
NHS finance chiefs had told the Government in clear terms that they need an extra £7 billion to fill current shortfalls. The £3.3 billion offered by the chancellor is less than half of that, and we’re extremely concerned about the grave impact this serious underfunding could have for specialist spinal services, and the level of medical care that SCI people often require.
We also note that there has been no commitment to inflation proof the wages of staff in either the social care sector or the NHS, despite the fact that persistent low wages are one of the major reasons for the current staffing crisis in both areas, a situation which looks like it will only continue this winter. It’s now been announced by the Royal College of Nursing that it’s members will stage strikes, for the first time in its 106-year history, on the 15 and 20 December, after ministers rejected their pleas for formal talks over NHS pay. The unprecedented national industrial action will seriously disrupt care, and is likely to be the first in a series of strikes over the winter and into the spring by other NHS staff, including junior doctors and ambulance workers
Whilst we accept that the chancellor’s room to manoeuvre was reasonably limited, especially after the disastrous mini budget from his predecessor, we also feel very strongly that different choices could have been made to support those most impacted by the cost-of-living crisis and to start to address the issues in healthcare and social care. We also note that the Office for Budget Responsibility have predicted that household incomes will fall by 7% over the next 18 months and that families face “real challenges” ahead of the predict biggest drop in living standards since records began. SIA will continue to support the widespread calls for the government to take specific action to address the cost-of-living crisis, and to make significant increased investment into public services so they can recover from the damage caused by covid.