Chancellor urged to use £2.4bn ‘surplus’ to ease social care crisis

Unison says an expected £2.4 billion 'surplus' in business taxes should be used to help ease the adult social care crisis in England.

Tory Chancellor Philip Hammond has been urged to use a £2.4 billion ‘surplus’ in business taxes to help ease the crisis in adult social care in England.

A new report from Unison published on Wednesday says a £2.4bn windfall in business taxes expected over the next few years has yet to be allocated by government, and should be handed to councils to help improve local social care services.

According to the report, ‘Investing in Social Care’, the government is expecting to receive more in business rates than it pays councils in support grants. However, this only applies to councils in England because there is no centrally-held business rate ‘surplus’ in either Wales or Scotland.

Government cuts to local authority funding has meant councils have less money available to fund social care. This has resulted in fewer vulnerable people receiving home care and a reduction in the number of day care places, which Unison claims is adding pressure to an already overstretched NHS.

The government has allowed local authorities to raise more money for social care through a 2% increase to council tax, but Unison says this money isn’t finding its way to those most in need – particularly those in deprived areas. By using the expected ‘surplus’ in business rates, councils would no longer need to increase council tax, say Unison, easing the burden on local residents.

Last week, a separate report from Unison found older people were being denied regular showers and visits to the toilet because of cuts to social care budgets.

A survey of more than 1,000 care workers found 63% are spending less time caring for older people because of staff shortages, while 65% said they are working alongside fewer staff than six years ago.

One care worker who responded to the survey said: “I see clients whose health has deteriorated because not enough time is being spent with them”.

A recent investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman discovered a 25% rise in home care complaints over the past year, with 65% of these complaints upheld.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The social care system is in dire straits. There’s simply not enough money to fund the care that’s needed.

“The losers are the thousands of dedicated homecare workers, who work long hours, and whose already low wages are dragged below the legal minimum because of the non-payment of travel time.

“Those suffering the most are the elderly and the disabled, who rely on daily visits so they can stay in their own homes.

“Visits are often too short to administer the care needed, or care packages simply aren’t available. Then people have to stay in hospital far longer than is good for them, in beds that are desperately needed for other patients.

“Investing £2.4bn in social care would be money extremely well spent. Not only would it mean better care for the elderly, it would ease the pressure on homecare staff, and free up beds in the NHS.”

Dave Prentis has also written to Philip Hammond, calling on the Chancellor to use his Autumn Statement next week (21 November) to improve public services. This includes calling for an end to public service job cuts, fully-funded student nurse bursaries, and an end to the 1% public sector pay cap.

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