Age UK responds to Autumn Statement
Published on 17 November 2022 03:54 PM
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said:
“The restoration of the triple lock next year, uprating of Pension Credit in line with inflation, and cost of living payments, are all extremely important for older people, particularly for the many with no other income to fall back on, including hundreds of thousands of older women, and we welcome them wholeheartedly. We thank all the older people and their friends and allies who campaigned so hard for these things in recent months, and we thank the Government for listening.
“These are really difficult times for millions of older people who are living on a low income, waiting endlessly for social care so they can get home from hospital, or in a long queue for a minor operation or some diagnostic tests and living with discomfort and pain in the meantime. Today’s Autumn Statement gave the Government an opportunity to help older people like these and, to our profound relief at Age UK, to a considerable extent it was taken. However, unfortunately the cost of living crisis, social care shortfalls and NHS pressures are all so acute that realistically, life will continue to be extremely tough for many older people, and for the local charities that support them, especially this winter. This means that as a country and as individuals we need to do everything we can to support our older population over the next few months, and as a charity Age UK is determined to take a lead in that.
“We regret the decision to delay the cap on catastrophic care costs for two years because Prime Minister Boris Johnson had made a firm commitment to introduce it in 2023 and having raised public expectations so high we feel it was right for this Government to follow through. Although the cap as currently proposed is considerably less generous than we wanted, it is a start and something to build on. Delaying it by a further two years raises serious questions over whether it will ever be introduced at all. However, having said that, we agree that with the social care system as weak as it currently is, the priority today must be to strengthen and deliver more care services rather than protecting people with assets from the full force of sky high bills.
“We warmly welcome the decision the Government has made to channel more resources into social care in various ways. They are desperately needed, but until the technical detail has been scrutinised we reserve judgement on just how much practical difference they will actually make to older and disabled people, especially once the impact of the rise in the national living wage is taken into account – brilliant though it is that care workers will receive higher pay as they richly deserve it.
“The Government had signalled in advance that it was likely to use increases in council tax as a mechanism for increasing financial support for social care. Age UK has never been very keen on this approach because although any extra money for social care is extremely welcome, the problems facing social care are really national in nature and require a national response. What’s more, we know that some areas can raise a lot more council tax than others but the need for social care is not distributed in the same way. The upshot is that council tax increases tend to create winners and losers, with poorer areas most likely to be left behind. Nothing could better demonstrate the urgent need for the Government to look at a much broader range of funded reforms to help older and disabled people, and their unpaid carers, wherever they happen to live.
“The extra funding for the NHS is extremely welcome, but we shouldn’t underestimate the challenges ahead. One of the biggest being workforce, so it was good to hear that proper projections of workforce needs will now be created and published, and the same should happen for social care too.
“Listening to the Autumn Statement as a whole, it was clear that the Chancellor has learned from his extensive experience concerning the NHS and social care and is committed to strengthening them as best he can in the powerful role he now occupies. It is a tragedy that this is a time when the public finances are so weak, but we look forward to working with him and his officials to make the most of an extremely difficult situation. Strong and effective health and social care services are not only crucial for our economy, they matter enormously to our older population too, who are the principal users of both. There is an opportunity now to build on the steps towards integration that have already been taken to create a much more effective approach for helping older people live independently and well in their own homes. With an ageing population and demand on NHS and social care services having risen as a result of the pandemic, it is increasingly urgent that it’s taken.”