Glance at the CSR


So the Comprehensive Spending Review has been delivered and ingested. I tried to look at it on three levels. The impact on social care in particular, as that’s the area I work in and the one which is most likely to affect the people with whom I work. The general social policy pushes that are indicated in the statement and particularly how this statement deals in general with poverty and disadvantage – or in the government’s somewhat mealy words ‘fairness’ and finally, and perhaps of least interest to anyone else reading this, how it affects me personally as a public sector employee with a middle income.

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=osborne&iid=9963601″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9963601/britain-finance-minister/britain-finance-minister.jpg?size=500&imageId=9963601″ width=”234″ height=”138″ /]

I’ll attempt to sum up these three elements – I can’t hold a light to the expert analysis in the press this morning though.

The BBC deliver a handy bullet point summary.

General Social Care Points

The headline figure is that £2 billion is being pushed into social care for adults. £1 billion is going to be provided directly to local authorities through the Personal Social Services grant particularly for social care. The document says that ‘to reduce administrative burdens and increase flexibility for local authorities, this grant will be merged into the local government grant’.

I’m unclear as to whether this will be ring-fenced or not. The idea of merging into a ‘local authority grant’ and the general drift away from ring-fencing indicates it might not be but I am happy to be corrected if I am wrong on that as the details seem extraordinarily complicated. Especially as later in the document it reads

‘Ringfencing of all local government revenue grants will end from 2011-12 except simplified school grants and a new public health grant’.

Unless I’ve misunderstood, the social care money is up for grabs. I don’t see eligibility criteria remaining static in the longer term regardless of what the government says.

As well as that

the NHS will set aside funding growing to £1 billion by 2014-15 within their settlement to fund new ways of providing services, including reablement services provided by the NHS. This will help break down the long-standing barriers between health and social care, leading to benefits across the health and social care system’.

So the headline £2 billion is marginally deceptive as the NHS budget is ‘raided’ specifically for rehabilitation reablement services. This is good in theory. Of course health and social care need to work better together. A cost in social care is all too frequently a saving in health but until the budgets are forcibly linked, this detachment has led to a shifting of costs from one to the other.

Access to reablement has to increase across the board and a part of the problem may be the way that management of this money will differ according to location. Still, more money is good. The government specifically mentioned that they hoped this  money would go towards maintaining the levels of eligibility criteria that already exist but to be honest, working, as I do in one of the increasingly rare local authorities that still meets ‘moderate’ needs according to the FACS, I can’t see that money lasting too long.

The government also committed, unsurprisingly, to increasing the scope of personal budgets. The government like personal budgets. I like the idea of personal budgets and devolving decision-making and power to those who need the services and want to manage them but effective and equitable methods of managing and supporting personal budgets cannot happen without increased support and yes, increased funding. I can’t see many local authorities pushing a great deal more into improving the method of delivery for personal budgets.

The document says

The government will look to significantly extend the use of personal budgets across a range of services including special education needs, support for children with disabilities, long term health conditions and adult social care’.

Without additional support, I see an increased reliance on informal carers to assist and manage the personal budgets in relation to children. Of course, this doesn’t have to be the case but I can’t see the support being offered. Personal budgets are also means-tested remember..

But the move into long term health conditions is an interesting one. I wonder if the budget will come from the NHS – logically it will.

The biggest concern I have is the way that local authority budgets as a whole have taken a hell of a beating. There will be less money to go around and while the government will harp on about protecting the NHS, it’s worth remembering that cuts have been happening in the NHS for a while now and they won’t stop with this.

The costs of reconfiguring services and paying off executives in the PCTS which are going to be abolished.

Again from the report

‘The NHS has already committed to make up to £20 billion of annual efficiency savings by the end of the Spending Review period’

You don’t need to be an insider or an analyst to know that £20 billion savings are not going to be made by central ordering of paperclips or reducing some managers.

Protection of front-line services has and will never happen with this plan.

I wouldn’t be fooled by the oft-lauded ‘protection of the NHS’. The policies and the finances point to a piece by piece dismantlement and destruction of the quality of service provision.

It’s already happening. I don’t absolve the previous government from this but information is power and we have to pick up and run and shout about this. We can’t accept the spin.

Another interesting element I picked up was about CRB – and there was a proposed increased portability of the CRB including employers having electronic access. You know, so no-one can accuse me of over-negativity, I’m happy to say I wholeheartedly agree with this.

Welfare

This is the biggie as far I’m concerned and certainly points us towards the government’s thinking about general social policy developments in the future.

The main headline changes are the abolition of child benefit for those paying high rate tax. I’m generally indifferent about this. I think it’s a bit ridiculous the method that has been taken but in principle it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

Employment and Support Allowance, or Incapacity Benefit as was is paid to people who, due to sickness and/or disability are unable to work. It allows for additional support to be given to people with specialist needs due to their ill-health, to gain employment.

There are two elements to ESA – contribution-based which is achieved if enough NI contributions and income-based which is given if you don’t have enough income/savings and haven’t paid enough contributions.

The contribution element is now going to be time-limited to 1 year. You have one year to ‘gain employment’ or go onto the lower Jobseekers Allowance and lose the additional support.

This is maleficence in all its glory. Time-limiting a disabling condition is hardly going to be an incentive to work which is going to be increasingly in short supply. Criteria for ESA have been tightened in any case and I have no problem with fair criteria being applied  but it is back to this promise of fairness that I return. Not all illnesses are equal and not all disabilities are equal. There is no blanket way to say ‘you should be better in ‘x’ months’.

But that’s exactly what the government have done.

The limiting of the contribution-based ESA suggests that the ‘insurance’ part of national insurance is being eroded. Remember, the people who claim this have paid their contributions.

More implicit has been the suggestion that somehow people who claim this benefit do not deserve it. I am happy for my tax to be spent in this way to be honest. I do think that the criteria should be based on what a GP or someone’s consultant says rather than an independent doctor though. Surely that would save a lot of money?

This is not solely about saving – this is about a social policy of stigmatising people who are unable to work and casting them as unwilling. This is not fair.

DLA mobility has been cut to people in residential care. This will affect mostly younger adults with very high needs. I wonder what the impact will be on these residential homes who will likely need to pay more to facilitate good quality care and outside activities for this group of people. I see fees rising. I see greater costs to bear by local authorities. I see costs being cut in quality of care.

Housing is the other big point and quite frightening in its effect. Rents for social housing can be increased to meet the ‘market rate’ . Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit are to be cut.

I see some potential problems there.

The benefits ‘cap’ will encompass these two benefits (although those on DLA will be excluded).

cap household benefit payments from 2013 at around £500 a week for a couple and lone parent households and around £350 a week for single adult households’

What does that mean for the cost of living in an expensive part of the country.. oh, for example, London?  There is no distinction (intentionally) between families with one child and families with five children. These children need protection and support regardless of the situation into which they were born and should not be punished. I think it will affect mobility adversely and risks breaking communities and social support to tragic levels.

The statement says

‘The number of social rented properties fell between 1997 and 2008.’

I wonder if there is any possible link to Thatcher’s despicable policy of selling off council housing stock?

There are increases in Child Tax Credits  but they seem to be minimal. I was interested in the target at Working Tax Credit as that was specifically set up to incentivise work.

The percentage of childcare costs that parents can claim through the WTC has decreased from 80% to 70% – hardly progressive cuts – and couples with children must now work up to 24 hours a week to qualify for WTC. I wonder where the additional jobs are going to come from – particularly in areas of high unemployment or dependence on public sector employment.

Localising power as the government puts it, is a trojan house. Local authorities budgets have been decimated and what local services still exist will be likely to be the bare statutory minimum.

The government has announced

‘around £470 million over the Spending Review period to support capacity building in the voluntary and community sector, including an endowment fund to assist local voluntary and community organisations… The Big Society Bank will bring in private sector funding in addition to receiving all funding available to England from dormant accounts’.

Big Society. There it is. I do wonder about the voluntary sector and no doubt this grant will be of assistance to some of them but the voluntary sector can’t pick up all of the slack.

My other concern is that the government has announced it will be increasingly looking to the private sector to bid for central contracts. We can see how unsuccessful that has been in improving services in social care. I despair.

Me

I’ll run through this one quite quickly.

Cuts in subsidies to bus and train travel. This is  a big one for me. I use public transport exclusively as I never got round to actually passing my driving test. Hardly a proportionate cut as it will definitely effect those least likely to be able to pay.

‘Bus subsidy will be reduced by 20% and local government resource grants by 28%’

Public sector job losses. While I hope my job is safe, there is no getting away from a loss of 490,000 public sector jobs. It is going to hurt and everyone will be affected in some way.

I’ll be paying more for my pension. I’m fairly indifferent about this. I don’t really have a big problem with it but combined with a pay freeze, it is going to hurt to some extent.

Retiring at 66 – nothing less than I expected. I expect it to be much higher by the time I eventually do retire.

Free museums – good but that’s not a new initiative.

Note to self: check smoke alarms

‘Fire resource expenditure will reduce by 13%’.

I’ve rambled on for way too long and have a lot more to say.

There are a lot more details that deserve and require discussion. As for me, I know most of it was already leaked and the government played a somewhat childish political game of adjusting expectations downwards. I think they should not be able to get away with such an unfair and regressive plan of spending. I, for one, don’t have an issue with being taxed more if necessary but if they say ‘we are all in this together’ they need to include some of the richest, including many cabinet members.

My worry is that the review into funding of care will continue this approach by somehow excusing those who have money and assets from paying for their own care – when they talk about ‘fairness’ when discussing their own inheritances, it will be worth remembering how they have hammered those least able to pay.

Council services will suffer and there’s where most of the effects of the cuts will be seen and it will be the elected  members of the councils who will be carrying the can for this government.

4 thoughts on “Glance at the CSR

  1. Pingback: Glance at the CSR - Fighting Monsters - Member blogs - Social Work Blog - Carespace from Community Care

  2. Thanks for this. It’s really dark stuff. Friends and relatives who work in the public sector actually feel that every single news report on radio 4 is becoming like a personal assault on them and the territory they’re working so hard to protect.

    One friend who lives in social housing and teaches at two universities at opposite ends of London says that he’s become quite fond of Paul McKenna’s love tapes (NLP stuff) as he really can’t cope with the atmosphere of self punishment and brow beating at work picked up from the media who are a bit like craven ravens. It’s like everyone is reacting because they’re expected to react but in an ‘appropriate way’ which is pretty self defeating.

    I think that this is an attack on the historical ground of the post war era, it’s ideological and hegemonic, but filtered through an unrepresentative media in an hysterical response to the threat of terrorism which should shut most people up as they will be scared of everything!

    Really it is bullying, class based bullying where there is no suggestion that anyone who is poor, on benefits actually deserves to be heard or treated properly as part of the plan. Calling people who live on low incomes throughout their life and remain in their council houses, hoping to pass them on to their children ‘council house aristocrats’ is the kind of language employed during the razing of cottage economies and livelihoods during the enclosure acts of the 17th and 18th centuries. Get the people off the land, split the families up and send them into migrant temporary hostels where they will be at the mercy of an employer’s whim. In the 18th and 19th centuries it were the mill owners. Today it’s the barons that own the agencies who employ people as mere ‘units ‘. Units who are ‘flexible’ enough to work on their crappy short and mindless ‘contracts’ that are all stacked in favour of the employer. So the idea is simple. The working class family can be deconstructed, made to appear dysfunctional, then impose migrancy on it so that it looks like a favour when an employer picks up one of the 16-35 year olds who are rooming on housing benefit in a shared house. Only a short contract, sorry but if you are very good, you never know, the contract may be extended. Every so often I imagine, one or two star performers will be picked out as ‘model workers’ just as all the really dreadful quango projects currently do with their ‘star unemployed to employed’ candidate or their ;shining example of what a single mum can do’.
    Beware of what’s happening to the others, though, beware of the levels of service people who are on low incomes have already been receiving for the past thirty years since MRs Thatcher gave the Eton Rifles the go ahead into the welfare state, because, actually that’s what privatisation really did, it created an environment where it’s ok to treat someone badly because you can, because they are naive enough to beleive that everyone matters and that the welfare state gave everyone equal access.
    Why are the poor overrepresented in the A and E departments? Because they have noone to stand up for them to give them access to proper treatment, care and access to society’s benefits. Because they’ve been kicked around when they expected equal and fair treatment and access.

    The thing is, this is just my opinion. I realise that everyone has different opinions but it’s really important to witness and to bear witness for a society that is actually inextricably linked in ways that our government and media try to deny so it makes it easy to be shallow and callous.

    But David Cameron and Nick Clegg are just privileged people who really know little about how this country matters to everyone and is a product of what everyone things and does, not just the Eton Squaddies.

  3. I think that with the ESA, they are still obsessed with the idea that people are choosing to go ‘on the sick’ via ESA rather than take jobseekers and look for work.

    So what they’ve done here is put ESA on a much closer footing with JSA (which already is means tested on a per household basis) and assume that if people on ESA have extra needs, it’ll be provided via DLA. (Sorry for all the acronyms.)

Comments are closed.