The 2023 Autumn Statement – Care England response

Care England, the largest and most diverse representative body of independent providers of adult social care in England, has today, 22 November 2023, shared its reaction to the Autumn Statement, presented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP.

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England said:

“The Autumn Statement placed a huge emphasis on growing our economy. What was overlooked was that the adult social care sector contributes more than £50bn to the economy per annum. The people receiving care and support, the staff and the taxpayers all feel the effects of the instability of our sector. The Government must now invest in social care to truly stabilise a key pillar of our society and economy.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer presented his Autumn Statement 2023 to Parliament on Wednesday 22 November 2023. Economic growth was the key tenant of the Chancellor’s budget.

Reference was made to the government taking significant steps to support the long-term sustainability of the health service. This included the publication of the first-ever NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, underpinned by an assumption of labour productivity increasing by 1.5-2% per year alongside the biggest expansion of staff training in NHS history. There was an omission of adult social care which plays a fundamental role in the sustainability of the NHS.

The government is supporting pensioner incomes by maintaining the pension Triple Lock which will be uprated in April 2024 in line with average earnings growth of 8.5% setting a precedent for the Government to commit additional funding to Local Authorities to pay adult social care providers a rate which reflects inflation and the increase in the National Living Wage (NLW).

The government is delivering on its commitment to end hourly low pay. From 1 April 2024, the NLW will increase by 9.8% to £11.44 with the age threshold lowered from 23 to 21 years old. This represents an increase of over £1,800 to the annual earnings of a full-time worker on the NLW and is expected to benefit over 2.7 million low-paid workers.

The adult social care sector’s ability to adjust wages is extremely limited by the current underfunding which characterises the sector; approximately 60% of care provider fees are determined by Local Authorities and the NHS and should be reviewed annually. This was something recognised by the Low Pay Commission in their recommendations to the Government, which have now been accepted, noting that in the social care sector, the “employers’ ability to pass on increased costs is highly constrained.” However, we must move beyond mere recognition into tangible action.

Professor Martin Green continues:

“While the rise in National Living Wage has an undeniably positive impact on those working within adult social care, due consideration must be lent to care providers who will need to grapple with increased workforce costs again, against a backdrop of Local Authority funding struggling to keep pace. Central Government investment has never been more critical, alongside a long-term workforce plan akin to that of the NHS to ensure social care is a desirable sector to join and remain a part of. With more people now expected to return to work, as part of the Government’s economic growth plan, there will be new opportunities for our domestic workforce to grow.”