Social care is in crisis – so why did the autumn statement not even mention it?

Meals on wheels. Image: Getty.

Today, we thought we would be settling in to a long analysis of local government funding. But the Autumn Statement was frankly breath-taking in its lack of policy detail – no real rabbits pulled out of hats or a gimmick to be seen.

While we were warned this may happen, this was not the budget we are used to seeing. Any substantial announcements were briefed in advance, including funding for housebuilding; but it was also missing policy detail that we were expecting, and there was very little for local government to get its teeth into.

There was some good news for local councils – the government has reconfirmed its commitment to devolution, with new deals set to go ahead. Increased national funding for productivity was positive, but there are no details as to how this money will be allocated and what it is likely to be spent on: devolution isn’t just about allocating funds to a region (appreciated though it is), but should be about transferring real autonomy and responsibility.

Most striking today though was the stark omission of any reference to health and social care spending. (Yes, we Ctrl + F-ed it). Local government, the NHS and a host of stakeholders have been stressing that the health and social care system is nearly at breaking point. Providers are already pulling out of the social care market as it becomes increasingly unsustainable, and the pressures falling on local authorities who have already seen their budgets slashed is increasing at an unprecedented rate. It won’t be long until start losing the battle. The chancellor’s decision to defer any major decisions is only going to entrench this problem.


Adding to cost pressures is the increase in the living wage. People need to be paid properly for the work that they are doing, and we welcome the increase in the living wage – but the impact on health and social care costs will be significant. According to the Chancellor today, a 30p per hour rise works out to over £500 a year for a full time worker. This will put a huge burden on local authorities, or more likely seriously limit the services they are able to provide. Living standards of workers should increase; but this should not be to the detriment of those most in need.

While ignoring the social care problem is a major worry to councils, the NHS should also be concerned. When social care is adequately provided, it reduces pressure on the NHS and other emergency services, not to mention the fact it improves quality of life for millions of people. By not making provision for this increase in cost, there is a substantial risk that situations escalate – and that ­­this extra care will end up being provided for by the already overstretched health service. 

While the health and social care crisis was worrying before, it is downright irresponsible to continue to ignore it.

Claire Porter is head of external affairs, and Claire Mansfield head of research, at the New Local Government Network. 

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.

 
 
 
 

A growing number of voters will never own their own home. Why is the government ignoring them?

A lettings agent window. Image: Getty.

The dream of a property-owning democracy continues to define British housing policy. From Right-to-Buy to Help-to-Buy, policies are framed around the model of the ‘first-time buyer’ and her quest for property acquisition. The goal of Philip Hammond’s upcoming budget – hailed as a major “intervention” in the “broken” housing market – is to ensure that “the next generation will have the same opportunities as their parents to own a home.”

These policies are designed for an alternative reality. Over the last two decades, the dream of the property-owning democracy has come completely undone. While government schemes used to churn out more home owners, today it moves in reverse.

Generation Rent’s new report, “Life in the Rental Sector”, suggests that more Britons are living longer in the private rental sector. We predict the number of ‘silver renters’ – pensioners in the private rental sector – will rise to one million by 2035, a three-fold increase from today.

These renters have drifted way beyond the dream of home ownership: only 11 per cent of renters over 65 expect to own a home. Our survey results show that these renters are twice as likely than renters in their 20s to prefer affordable rental tenure over homeownership.

Lowering stamp duty or providing mortgage relief completely miss the point. These are renters – life-long renters – and they want rental relief: guaranteed tenancies, protection from eviction, rent inflation regulation.

The assumption of a British ‘obsession’ with homeownership – which has informed so much housing policy over the years – stands on flimsy ground. Most of the time, it is based on a single survey question: Would you like to rent a home or own a home? It’s a preposterous question, of course, because, well, who wouldn’t like to own a home at a time when the chief economist of the Bank of England has made the case for homes as a ‘better bet’ for retirement than pensions?


Here we arrive at the real toxicity of the property-owning dream. It promotes a vicious cycle: support for first-time buyers increases demand for home ownership, fresh demand raises house prices, house price inflation turns housing into a profitable investment, and investment incentives stoke preferences for home ownership all over again.

The cycle is now, finally, breaking. Not without pain, Britons are waking up to the madness of a housing policy organised around home ownership. And they are demanding reforms that respect renting as a life-time tenure.

At the 1946 Conservative Party conference, Anthony Eden extolled the virtues of a property-owning democracy as a defence against socialist appeal. “The ownership of property is not a crime or a sin,” he said, “but a reward, a right and responsibility that must be shared as equitable as possible among all our citizens.”

The Tories are now sleeping in the bed they have made. Left out to dry, renters are beginning to turn against the Conservative vision. The election numbers tell the story of this left-ward drift of the rental sector: 29 per cent of private renters voted Labour in 2010, 39 in 2015, and 54 in June.

Philip Hammond’s budget – which, despite its radicalism, continues to ignore the welfare of this rental population – is unlikely to reverse this trend. Generation Rent is no longer simply a class in itself — it is becoming a class for itself, as well.

We appear, then, on the verge of a paradigm shift in housing policy. As the demographics of the housing market change, so must its politics. Wednesday’s budget signals that even the Conservatives – the “party of homeownership” – recognise the need for change. But it only goes halfway.

The gains for any political party willing to truly seize the day – to ditch the property-owning dream once and for all, to champion a property-renting one instead – are there for the taking. 

David Adler is a research association at the campaign group Generation Rent.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook