Autumn Statement ‘missed opportunity to back social care & tackle poverty’ says BASW
Mr Hunt explained that his statement would take a responsible approach to public spending to keep debt falling. He welcomed falling inflation figures and said that the government was now taking long-term decisions to grow the economy. He set out plans to cut taxes to ‘reward hard work’ and announced 110 ‘growth measures’ for business.
What were the key announcements?
- Universal Credit and other benefits will increase by the September rate of inflation of 6.7%
- End the freeze on Local Housing Allowance rate
- The National Living Wage will rise to £11.44 per hour from April 2024. The eligible age has lowered from 23 to 21.
- National Insurance Rate will be cut from 12% to 10% from January 2024
- Mandatory work placements for jobseekers after 18 months out of work. Jobseekers will have benefits such as free medicines and legal aid removed if they’re found not to be looking for work under the Back to Work Plan
- State Pension Payments will increase by 8.5% from April 2024
Ahead of today’s announcements, BASW wrote to the Treasury making clear that we wanted to see ambitious policies to tackle poverty, improve working conditions and invest in public services. Read our asks here.
Whilst we welcome plans to raise the national living wage, end the freeze on Local Housing Allowance, increase state pension payments and uprate benefits in line with September inflation levels, much more still needs to be done. The cost-of-living crisis continues to grip the country- resulting in record levels of destitution and reductions in standards of living- and today’s statement was a missed opportunity to reverse those worrying trends.
The Chancellor also didn’t mention social care throughout his statement, again failing to grasp the real urgency and seriousness of current challenges around under-resourcing and inadequate working conditions.
Responding to the statement, BASW Chief Executive Dr Ruth Allen commented:
“Aspects of today’s statement will offer some relief to individuals and families during these hard times, but it’s unlikely to truly alleviate the deepening financial insecurity that exists across the UK.
“It’s disheartening that we can only expect the government to announce the minimum required to support those on the lowest incomes, such as uprating benefits in line with inflation, instead of the bold, ambitious policies that are needed to lift people out of poverty for good.
“This was also another missed opportunity for the government to address the funding crisis in social care. BASW has repeatedly warned that we need long-term funding, rather than short bursts of money, to allow local authorities and services to plan ahead. We also advocated for measures that would support the social work workforce in the immediate term, such as an increase to the non-taxable mileage allowance rate, restore remote working allowance and widen student bursary access. It’s disappointing that yet again these levels of much-needed investment are still not forthcoming.
“Ahead of next year’s General Election, we’ll continue to call on political parties to deliver actions that improve working conditions for social workers and social care staff, address the recruitment and retention challenges we face and tackle financial inequity across society.”