What the Budget 2021 will mean for social work services and the people that use them

The Chancellor will set out plans tomorrow for Government spending and taxation in the coming year as organisations in the social work sector call for investment in vital services.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will tomorrow (Wednesday 3 March) deliver his Budget to the House of Commons, outlining the financial commitments of the Government, including both taxation and spending.

Tomorrow’s announcement will be the first picture of Government spending since the Autumn Spending Review in November 2020.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) says “all eyes will be on the Chancellor” as several organisations in the social work sector make last-minute pleas for investment in areas affecting social workers and service users.

Central to the appeals for many is the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit, which is currently set to end in April.

BASW – along with charities, trade unions, religious groups, and MPs from all parties – is calling for the top-up to be extended for a further year.

There has been speculation that the Chancellor is considering ending this uplift and replacing it with a one-off payment, or extending for just 6 months.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that if the uplift is not extended in tomorrow’s Budget it will push 500,000 more people into poverty.

“Cutting that lifeline now would be the wrong decision and will reduce the level of support for people out of work to the lowest level since 1990,” said Helen Barnard, Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Directors of adult social services have also called for Sunak to use the Budget to send a signal that meeting the needs of older and disabled people, carers and families is “at the heart of the Government’s agenda and will be at the heart of recovery”.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has called for short-term funding “to stabilise the system” and provide respite for “exhausted social care workers” by bringing in new staff.

“We want to hear the Chancellor explicitly recognise the potential of adult social care to help drive economic recovery,” said President of ADASS James Bullion.

Both BASW and ADASS also called for longer-term funding to progress adult social care reform and create a more sustainable solution to the crisis.

Both say a commitment to longer-term funding is needed, as well as “major investment” in preventive community services.

ADASS says this must also include a social care minimum wage of £10.90 an hour.

“We need more than just another reiteration of the promise that the Government will bring forward plans for social care later this year,” Bullion said, adding: “Those plans should be a foundation stone of the recovery blueprint.”

The Government will publish the 2021 Budget tomorrow (Wednesday 3 March), with Chancellor Rishi Sunak likely to deliver a speech to House of Commons at around 12.30pm.

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