United Response calls on the Chancellor to commit to providing more funding for people with disabilities and social care.

Speaking ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review, which is due to be published on Wednesday, national disability charity United Response is calling on the Government to prioritise social care funding; to cover the additional costs of introducing the National Living Wage; and to protect funding for specialist employment provision aimed at helping people with disabilities find work.

Social care funding

On the funding of social care, United Response chief executive Tim Cooper said:

“So much hinges on this Comprehensive Spending Review for the social care sector, which continues to find itself in the increasingly difficult position of being asked to provide more for less.

“Over the last 5 years, £4.6 billion has been removed from social care budgets, leaving the sector seriously underfunded. Cutting budgets in this way is having a hugely negative effect on people needing care, with the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) estimating that there are now more than 1.6 million people over the age of 18 with unmet social care needs in England. This is a situation that will become critical during the period of this Spending Review – unless action is taken.

“As demand for social care grows each year so, too, does the funding gap. The Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services have calculated that an additional £700 million is needed each year to simply meet the minimum care requirements of a population that is living longer.

"We feel that the £6 billion that the Government has saved in delaying the introduction of the Care Cap should be used to fill this hole and cover other funding issues facing the sector, such as the cost of introducing the National Living Wage.”

National Living Wage

On the National Living Wage, United Response chief executive Tim Cooper said:

“In addition to shortfall in social care funding, the sector is currently facing several additional funding pressures, including growing competition for staff from other sectors pushing up wages and the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) in April 2016.

"As a care provider, we know that our staff are our greatest asset, and as such welcome the introduction of the National Living Wage to reward people who regularly go above and beyond to ensure that the people they support receive the highest quality of care.

“Funding must be made available, however, for providers to meet the additional wage costs that will come about as a result of increasing wage costs including the NLW. The LGA estimates the NLW alone will cost a minimum of £330 million to implement across publicly funded social care in 2016/17; this figure will rise to £0.8bn by 2020.

“There are very specific pressures facing charitable providers of services to people with learning disabilities such as United Response. Services for people with learning disability are wholly state funded, with no potential for cross-subsidy from private self-funders. Alongside this, people we support require high levels of staff support, often one to one.

"Other sectors impacted by the introduction of the NLW can adjust by reducing staff numbers, introducing greater automation and unilaterally increasing prices for customers.None of these options are available to providers of services for people with very high support needs.

“Given the very tight margins charitable providers already work to, we are extremely worried that, unless the Government fully meets the costs of paying front-line workers a fair wage, the NLW will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We fear that many providers will be forced out of the market – with disastrous results for disabled people who rely on our support.

“For this reason, we are calling on the Chancellor to introduce, as a matter of urgency, a transition fund, which will cover the additional costs of paying front-line care workers a fair wage – including the introduction of the NLW – in the short term, until a longer term funding solution is secured. We believe that this should be funded, along with the £700 million needed elsewhere in social care, from the £6 billion that the Government has saved by delaying the Care Cap.”

Moving people out of long-stay institutions

On providing community provision, United Response chief executive Tim Cooper said:

“The Chancellor must also consider the funding that is required to meet the Government’s commitment to reduce the number of people with learning disabilities and/or autism in long stay hospitals, and Assessment and Treatment Units (ATU) over the next 5 years.

“We welcome the Government’s response to the green paper No voice unheard, no right ignored, published last week. However, as an organisation with over 40 years of experience of providing community services for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, we are particularly concerned about the lack of community-based support and treatment services available to people most at risk of going into hospital and, alongside this, a lack of suitable housing options.

“We would argue that having such provision available is vital if people are to have somewhere to move on to when they leave long stay hospitals and ATUs – and also as an alternative to people entering hospitals in the first place.

“Creating specialist community services for people with complex needs can be more costly in the short term, and requires substantial initial front-end investment for the transition period. However, over time, such services not only dramatically improve the quality of people’s lives but often deliver savings, and so it is essential that the Chancellor takes a long-term view and commits the necessary funding for these vital services.”

Specialist employment provision

On supporting disabled people into work, United Response chief executive Tim Cooper said:

“The Government has also pledged, through its manifesto, to halve the employment gap for disabled people by increasing the employment opportunities available; an important promise given that at present only 7% of people with learning disabilities and 15% of people with autism are in paid work.

“The Government has recognised the important role played by specialist employment programmes, such as Work Choice, in assisting people with disabilities to address the complex barriers that they often face in accessing employment. We would now ask the Chancellor to ensure that funding is available to allow proven programmes such as this to be maintained and expanded, and to assist the Government in meeting its commitment to close the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people.”

Funding priorities

On overall funding priorities, United Response chief executive Tim Cooper said:

“There will be many calls made on the Chancellor in this spending review, but we feel very strongly that people that rely on the wide range of services provided by the social care sector should not be expected to wait another five years for more funding to be made available for this vital area of support.

“The spending review must reflect the promises that the Government has made to people with disabilities and their families.”