Monday, 12 March 2012

Social Care MUST be a Part of the Budget Debate

If past years are any guide the political agenda for the next week and a bit will focus on the Budget. There will be, and has already been, calls for changes at either end of the tax spectrum, we will see senior politicians  offer ‘expert’ insight  into what the Government should be doing (probably having already been briefed in what they are actually doing!) but, undoubtedly, the thing least likely to be on the agenda is social care.

Obviously the lives of the most vulnerable in society should be at the top of the agenda when it comes to talking about the nations finances and how we use the national income to provide for them first.

Yet most  politicians are too wrapped up in party ideologies   to focus on the real issue facing the country – an increasing elderly demographic that will require more social care services in the future.

Take, for example, last weekend’s LibDem spring conference where the call has been for lower tax for those on lower incomes and higher tax for the wealthy. Whilst lower tax would certainly benefit the large number of low paid social care workers taxation is an issue that does not immediately impact on the lives of social care users.

Many vulnerable adults do not pay tax, employment amongst those with learning disabilities, for instance, is incredibly low, and they are dependent on the State to be able to live day to day. Many of those who live in care settings only retain a personal expenses allowance of £22.60 (increasing to £23.25 in April) and many of those receiving social care services at home only have their pension or benefit payment to live on.

Many of us have benefitted from the historically low interest rates, which has allowed some of the increasing rate of inflation to be balanced out but, again, many of the most vulnerable in society are not home owners or have already paid the mortgage on their home or, indeed, had to sell it for care services.

Therefore, it  is important  that the Budget reflect the increasing pressure on the low incomes of the most vulnerable.

The actions of the Chancellor can impact on the costs faced by the population, where this may be offset by raising the income tax threshold the vulnerable, who pay no tax, are more vulnerable to increasing prices caused by the Governments actions.

Over recent years the services available for the vulnerable have been reduced or costs increased, the rising fuel costs have pushed up food prices and made the cost of care in the home more expensive, VAT has risen as has the general cost of living.

Social Care needs to be at the top of the agenda and this includes being at the top of the Chancellors agenda when delivering the budget.

The first aim of a civilised society should be to care for the most needy in that society and George Osborne should  take the responsibility  for ensuring that the most vulnerable are not disadvantaged by next weeks budget.