On March 8th, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, unveiled his first Budget to parliament, outlining the government's plans for the coming year. The announcement covered many areas, including the forecast that the UK's economy will grow by two per cent in 2017, plans to make the UK a world leader in 5G technology, and the allocation of £536 million for new free schools and to maintain existing schools.
But what does the 2017 Budget mean for professionals operating in the safeguarding sector? Earlier this month, Labour MPs proposed new clauses to ensure that children in care are allowed reasonable contact with their siblings, and to revoke provisions in the Children and Social Work Bill that enables local authorities in England and Wales to place children in secure accommodation in Scotland, and visa versa, the BBC reports.
Further to this, a number of amendments were proposed on child safeguarding issues, including the requirement of regular reports by local councils on their ability to provide proper safeguarding services for children. Here we take a look at whether Mr Hammond considered these proposals, analysing what the Budget means for the safeguarding sector.
Over the next three years, the government will provide adult social care with £2 billion, in the hope that it will help councils to provide high quality social care to more people and help to ease pressure on the NHS. According to the chancellor, half of this amount will be released during 2017-18 so that councils can act immediately to commission more social care packages and relieve pressures on the health service. The rest of the funding will then be provided in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
In addition to this, Mr Hammond committed to setting out the government’s proposals for future care funding in a green paper that will be released later in the year. However, the chancellor ruled out funding social care through a so-called 'death tax' – a name given to a system considered by the Labour government that would have applied a levy on estates when a person dies.
Margaret Willcox, president elect of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), commented on the Budget: "We welcome this important step towards closing the growing gap in Government funding for adult social care.
"We are keen to build a consensus on a long-term, sustainable solution about how we provide and pay for care for years to come, and we hope the Green Paper helps to achieve that."
The investment announced during the Budget will mean that councils will have to work with NHS colleagues to spend the money – in a similar approach to the Better Care Fund (BCF) – and there will be measures to ensure struggling authorities improve. The amended BCF was initially announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement, along with a strategy for the social care precept that allowed a two per cent council tax levy to raise funds for adult services.
This year, the fund will provide councils with £105 million, £825 million in 2018-19, and £1.5 billion in 2019-20. However, critics have previously called on the government to bring the £1.5 billion forwards to relieve immediate pressure on services.
Ahead of the Budget, ADASS requested that the government immediately provided £1 billion to help stabilise the social care system, and to take steps in tackling the long-term resourcing issues for social care.
"The chancellor's spring budget has quite rightly acknowledged the precarious state of adult social care," said Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, the largest representative body for independent social care services in the UK.
"While the £2 billion additional funding is welcome, it will only be an efficient use of taxpayer?s money should the green paper deliver the reforms that are necessary to put the system on a stable footing."