June saw the announcement of the Government’s Spending Round which outlined their spending plans for 2015/16.
Despite Chancellor George Osborne ruling out any further spending cuts to welfare before the Spending Round, there were in fact some major policy announcements which could indeed result in cuts.
The planned cap on welfare spending is of particular concern to Aspire as it will include disability related benefits. This could potentially remove the foundations of rights and needs from entitlement and mean support is weighted more on the grounds of cost. This could impact on people with Spinal Cord Injury dramatically.
The additional costs of living with a spinal cord injury can be substantial, ranging from requiring specially adapted transport to needing 24 hour personal assistance.Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was introduced to help with the extra costs of living with an illness or impairment. Its recent replacement, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) aims to continue this. A reduction in the ability to meet the costs associated with Spinal Cord Injury could result in people being increasingly isolated, and experiencing a severe deterioration in their physical and mental health.
Disability benefits are crucial in enabling many spinal cord injured people to return to work following their injury. If the cap leads to fewer people receiving support and being unable to work, this will make it harder for disabled people to become financial contributors to society and the state.
It has been suggested that it’s unlikely that “the government would simply refuse to pay out benefits to which people are entitled" (Channel 4 News analysis) and indeed there are currently no details of how the cap will work in practice. However, if the Government reaches its cap spending level for welfare, there is a danger that entitlements to disability benefits will be tightened and that people who need that crucial support will not receive it.
Another key announcement that is of interest to us included details of plans to increase integration of health and social care and a pledged £3.8bn to do so. On the surface this appears to be very positive and we welcome the recognition by the Government that greater health and social care integration is beneficial. Integrated health and social care aims to prevent a disconnection between the different health and social care support that an individual receives. This is of particular importance for those with spinal cord injuries who can find themselves facing different assessments from health and social care bodies to identify their needs. It can also help with creating new and innovative ways to address people’s needs through councils and health authorities coordinating their resources to take into account someone’s whole lifestyle.
However, over half of this money is coming from the NHS budget, which despite increasing in real terms, is struggling to cope with the huge demands placed on the service. The cuts already imposed on local authorities have placed huge pressure on social care departments at local councils and, unless this changes, the potential of this announcement in the Spending Round will not be realised. With announcements that local authorities face a further 10% of cuts to their funding, this means that the amount of money councils have to spend on social care will fall even further. This raises the question of just how effective, if at all, this injection of funding will be in reality.
These are only headline announcements and the details and practicalities are yet to be made clear. Aspire will be following developments closely.