Over the past few months, we have seen MPs, medical professionals, council leaders and care leaders united in their belief that urgent action is needed to close the social care-funding gap. Without this, they said, the results could be catastrophic.
On Wednesday, the social care sector eagerly awaited the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. Given the strength of the warnings from across the political divide and the social care sector, there was reason for cautious optimism. Many hoped the Government would understand that millions of disabled and elderly adults desperately need and rely on social care. It was expected he would realise that funding social care actually saves the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds in reduced bed blocking and fewer hospital admissions.
Hammond happily talked of his plans to invest tens of billions to improve roads and railways and announced his brand new £23bn productivity investment fund. But when it came to social care – there was a deathly silence.
Plans to spend £7.6m on restoring Wentworth Woodhouse will provide the millions struggling with cuts to social care with little comfort. Perhaps this is a worthy cause, but to use the Autumn Statement to outline plans to restore an historic manor house in Yorkshire while making no mention of the biggest social care crisis in a generation bordered on the absurd.
There can be no doubt that this was a carefully considered decision. Not only did social care fail to get a single mention, but the NHS as a whole was conspicuous in its absence, and was mentioned only twice in passing. Rather, it appears that the Government decided any mention of increased funding to the NHS or social care would act as an admission that a crisis actually exists. With that in mind, they simply chose to ignore it, in the hope that the media would look elsewhere for their story.
What the Government appears to have forgotten is that the crisis is real, involving real people in real need of the support that social care provides. As much as the Government might wish, this crisis will not simply disappear just by ignoring it.
That such vast sums were allocated to infrastructure and economic stimulus is to be expected given the post-Brexit landscape. But in the process Phillip Hammond has made perfectly clear what the priorities of this government are. The care and wellbeing of the most vulnerable in our society is certainly not one of them.