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‘Health and Care Chancellor' urged to support social care in Budget

The Care and Support Alliance said it is ‘imploring' Jeremy Hunt to use his Budget to announce more investment in social care (Peter Byrne/PA)
Aine Fox, PA Social Affairs Correspondent

Funding for carers to have respite breaks should be doubled, a coalition representing older people has urged Jeremy Hunt as they dubbed him the “Health and Care Chancellor”.

The Care and Support Alliance (CSA) said it is “imploring” Mr Hunt to use his Budget on Wednesday to announce more investment in social care, including doubling Government funding for carers' breaks.

Age UK, which is a member of the CSA, said it had polled more than 1,600 carers aged 60 and above and found that 35% have felt overwhelmed because of the care and support they provide, while 61% sometimes or always worry about whether they would be able to keep caring or providing support.

The CSA said unpaid carers have been left to fill a gap due to a “shortfall of social care services compared to growing demand from older and disabled people”.

The organisation warned that a failure to provide adequate support for carers is “greatly increasing the risk of these informal care arrangements breaking down, in which case the responsibility of providing care usually falls wholly on the state”, describing it as a “false economy”.

The coalition said it is calling for £584 million to be allocated in the Better Care Fund for carers' breaks, up from £292 million.

The CSA has already written to Mr Hunt, urging him to “prioritise social care in your Spring Budget”, drawing on his experience as a former health secretary and someone who has highlighted issues in social care over the years.

In their open letter, members said: “We believe you have the most developed understanding of social care, the benefits good care brings and the huge problems for individuals and their families and carers when it is not available, of anyone who has ever occupied your role as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

“We sincerely hope you will draw on all that experience and insight and will take decisive action to support social care in your Budget on March 15th.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK and co-chair of the CSA, said while caring for a loved one can be rewarding “it is also incredibly taxing and it can absorb all your time and energy, leaving you feeling completely spent”.

She added: “We are imploring Jeremy Hunt, ‘the Health and Care Chancellor', to double the Government's funding for carers' breaks.

“Social care is crying out for a long-term programme of refinancing and reform and a good place to start is through the actions we recommend the Chancellor takes in his Budget. Certainly, reason for hope and more concrete support for unpaid carers must be at the heart of any initiative to improve social care.”

Emily Holzhausen, director of policy at Carers UK and co-chair of the CSA, said: “The investment that we're urging the Chancellor to provide would be a boost for families, helping to support their wellbeing, quality of life and prevent some from having to give up work to care.

“Otherwise, families, public services and the economy will continue to count the costs of under-investment in social care.”

The letter also called for a “richly deserved pay rise for all care workers” and for the social care means test to be made more generous so that disabled and older people “keep receiving the care they need and have to pay for, rather than feeling they have no choice but to give it up or cut it back, because they simply cannot afford it”.

Last year the Government faced criticism for the decision to push back long-promised social care reforms to October 2025.

The reforms include an £86,000 cap on personal care cost contributions and an expanded means test that is more generous than the existing one, which had been due to come into effect from October 2023.

The Government has said it will publish a plan for adult social care system reform “in spring”.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have made up to £7.5 billion available over the next two years to support social care services – the biggest funding increase in history. This will help local authorities address waiting lists and workforce pressures in the sector including burnout and boosting morale.

“Most paid carers are employed by private-sector providers who set their pay and conditions independently, but the Government has raised the national living wage by 9.7% to £10.42 an hour for workers aged 23 and over.

“We are working to reduce vacancies through a domestic recruitment campaign, £15 million investment in international recruitment and making care workers eligible for the health and care visa.”

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