Social work sector reacts to Chancellor’s Spending Review announcements

Rishi Sunak announces an additional £1bn funding for social care but at least 1.3 million public sector workers, including social workers, hit with pay freeze.

26/11/20

Social work sector reacts to Chancellor’s Spending Review announcements

Sector bodies and leaders have been reacting the plans outlined by the Chancellor in Wednesday’s Spending Review.

Mr Sunak made a string of key announcements relating to the social work and social care sectors as he outlined the unprecedented and adverse body-blow the UK economy was set to take over the coming years, with the results of the coronavirus pandemic yet to be fully realised.

The Chancellor announced an additional £1bn funding opportunity for children’s and adults’ social care – £300m through government injections, plus around £700m available through optional council tax increases from next year.

The sector is also set to profit from a new £3bn fund designated for local authorities for the coming financial year to meet the additional costs as a result of the pandemic.

There was also a new £500m injection into supporting mental health services that have seen increases in demand as the mental toll of the pandemic continues to affect millions.

Read more about how the pandemic is affecting mental health: https://www.socialworktoday.co.uk/News/People-in-mental-health-crisis-at-highest-recorded-levels%2C-says-charity

Reaction to the Chancellor’s announcements on additional funding from social work leaders has been mixed.

Jenny Coles, President of ADCS, welcomed the “relief and additional resourcing for local authorities at this critical time”, but also stressed that the funding “does not solve the challenges that children and children’s services face.”

ADASS president James Bullion called the announcement “fragmented short-term funding,” saying it fell “alarmingly short” of what was needed.

Kerri Prince, Public and Political Affairs Lead at BASW, discussing the announcements on the Let’s Talk Social Work podcast, said that the allotted funding “simply isn’t enough” and that the Government had shifted “responsibility onto already stretched local authorities” and “ignored child poverty”.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the additional funding provided “more certainty for councils next year”, but that the “long-term outlook remains unclear”.

Alongside the news of additional funding for the sector, the Chancellor instead announced that 2.1 million public sector workers earning less than £24,000 would receive a pay rise of just over 1%. In addition, more than a million NHS workers will also receive a salary increase as the living wage was raised by 2.2% to £8.91.

With inflation predicted to hit 1.5% next year, it represents a pay freeze that experts say could act more as a pay-cut for hundreds of thousands of people who have been regarded as “key workers” by the Government throughout the pandemic.

The pay-freeze has prompted a backlash from public sector unions and sector bodies, with potential strike action already being considered by some.

ADCS called on the Government to “recognise the invaluable work that the workers across all public services have done during the pandemic”, whilst the LGA said it could not guarantee that government employees who earn less than £24,000 will indeed receive the new 1% increase.

In the Spending Review, Mr Sunak spoke of a current disparity between public and private sector wages that meant he could not “justify a significant, across-the-board” salary increase for all public sector workers.

The Spending Review is an announcement of how much is spent on public services including funding decisions for local government and public sector workers’ pay.

You can read the Spending Review 2020 update in full at www.gov.uk/government/publications/spending-review-2020-documents

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