Spring Budget 2023: What Changes for Adult Social Care?

Jeremy Hunt unveiled his Spring Budget for 2023 earlier today, and the significant changes announced for childcare provision are making headlines everywhere – but there are sparse details on whether the government plans to expand on the funding announced in the Autumn budget.

In fact, some of the only mentions of adult social care in the entire document are to note that in the “Autumn Statement 2022, the government made available up to an additional £6.1 billion in 2023-24 and £8 billion in 2024-25 to support health and adult social care services”.

Stuart Bensusan, Director of Surewise.com, comments:

“The outcry within the adult social care sector has been significant even before the pandemic, with the added restrictions and pressure of the past three years leaving many within this industry at complete breaking point.

Carers deserve to be paid what they are worth, and many are going to be woefully disappointed with the governments decisions in their latest budget.”

Under funding causes vacancies to jump

Vacancies in adult social care jumped 52% last year, to an estimated 165,000 vacant posts. After years of what many argue is a chronic under funding issue, it has become increasingly hard to attract the staffing numbers necessary to meet the demands of our aging population. 

Perhaps not surprising, for a job so challenging (both mentally and physically) that typically pays little more than minimum wage. In fact, a care worker in England is paid on average £8,000 a year less than NHS staff with the same skills. 

It may be true that wages are never the top priority for why an individual may choose to enter the health and social care sector, but there comes a point, many leading organisations have argued, where the lack of appropriate financial remuneration for the stresses of a job becomes too much, and those figures indicate the UK has reached that breaking point.

Social Care funding

This row has been ongoing for years. A government representative recently said it was “incredibly grateful” to carers, recognising their “extraordinary commitment”. A spokesperson added: “That’s why we prioritised social care in the Autumn Statement, providing up to £7.5bn over the next two years.” 

Neglecting to expand upon this funding in the latest Spring budget is doubtless going to cause huge outcry within the care secotr.

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “The adult social care sector is facing significant financial and workforce challenges. We have consistently said that £13bn is needed for social care so that its many pressures can be addressed and councils can deliver on all of their statutory duties.”

The solution seems clear: pay carers what they are worth. Finally. And that is a decision one care home has taken into its own hands.

Heather Lofts, co-owner of Visiting Angels in Burton-Upon-Trent, saw that the need for quality care started with her own staff, and giving them the pay they deserved.

“This is a skilled job and needs to be rewarded accordingly,” she said.

“Minimum wage has no part to play in care as far as Visiting Angels is concerned.

We are out to change the face of care, and that starts by recruiting your carers, paying them accordingly, and treating them in the right way.”

Visiting Angels increased their client care fees by 13% to ensure their 21 staff receive an hourly rate of at least £2-£3 above the minimum wage.

“Business costs are also up by an average of 15%, and we raised our pay rates by 15-17%,” said Ms Lofts.

“It is a model that’s working. And it is about retaining the staff, because if you can retain the staff, you’re not then forking out the money to keep recruiting new staff.

It’s a lot better to spend the money on the staff that you’ve got and already value.”

She added: “We pay them mileage between their calls, we pay them travel time between their calls. We pay their MOTs, and we pay towards the servicing of their cars. If you value your carers, they will stay with you. And it’s not just about pay, it’s about support in so many different ways.”

What’s clear is that the situation in social care is coming to a head. Long under-appreciated; now, under-staffed too.

Visiting Angel’s business model has shown that paying carers better is not only an ethical choice but has economic benefits. We cross our fingers that other business owners- or indeed the government- follow suit. It could even be the saving grace for a sector on its knees.