The Autumn statement leaves us out in the cold

Last week didn’t give us the ray of sunshine we’d hoped for, or even a break in the clouds; it was more like being pushed outside into the cold.  The Autumn statement was a waste of time for Social Care – not even getting a mention once. What a disgrace.

The Chancellor had the opportunity to throw us a lifeline but chose to completely ignore the crisis the sector is faced with. To be honest that surprises me somewhat. The mounting pressure on the government via many Departments and Ministers must be getting through somewhere, surely? No? Clearly my ‘glass half-full’ outlook and will for positive action is way off. For the moment anyway.

So no more funding…but more expenditure as of April next year, as the expected 30p rise in the National Living Wage is confirmed. Come on Mr Hammond, I am no Carol Vorderman but it simply does not add up. Providers are already struggling to meet the existing minimum wage requirements, particularly in relation to sleep-ins, and the pressure has now just been stepped up a notch.

Of course, this is no revelation to you. Unfortunately, this has been an ongoing issue for many months now – and I am sorry to say without some clarification in the law regarding sleeping time, without an increase in funding and with HMRC focusing in non-compliance, the situation is becoming more and more worrying. The question mark hanging over the sustainability of the sector seems to be getting larger and larger.

It was announced the government is to invest an additional £4.3 million to ‘strengthen NMW enforcement’. Therefore, HMRC will be honing in on those employers who are most likely to be at risk of non-compliance. My fear is that Social Care will certainly be in the sights of HMRC on a greater scale than it is already. We all agree that workers should be remunerated appropriately and certainly do not ‘buck’ against this, the problem though for the social care sector is there are so many anomalies and issues (mainly lack of funding) that make true compliance a greater challenge. Yet another worry for providers.

If this is any comfort, at least everyone is in the ‘same boat’ to a lesser or greater extend. Please be aware that we continue to work with other sector partners to keep banging on the door of Downing Street to secure additional funding and/or at least get some black and white clarification regarding sleep-ins, and with it acknowledgement from the decision-makers that the sums don’t compute.

Sorry to be doom and gloom, I hate to be so negative. So let’s hope the season of goodwill helps Mrs May and Mr H reflect on the importance of caring and supporting each other, and come to a realisation that this country will not be able to do that to the required standard soon for those most vulnerable in our society if they don’t give us the Christmas present we desperately need.

Lisa Lenton
ARC England Director

1 December 2016