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Still in a ‘JAM’ - Little for those on ‘edge of coping’ in Autumn Statement says BASW

In response to the Autumn Statement, BASW is calling for an end to austerity economics and more investment in prosperity and wellbeing across all parts of society. The Association is urging an end to favouring tax cuts for the most well off, a reversal of welfare cuts and benefits sanctions, particularly the inhumane treatment of disabled people, and an urgent, realistic settlement for social care.

The Autumn Statement paints a very bleak picture of national finances, with national debt and borrowing set to rise and productivity and economic growth declining. There is more revealed about the cost of Brexit too – with Whitehall alone set to need an additional £500m just as many areas of public services and investment continue to be stripped back.  At the same time, corporate tax is set to reduce significantly.

Despite increasing borrowing elsewhere, the government has left big welfare cuts in place and there is very little for the ‘Just About Managing' families (JAMs) that Theresa May has said she wants to focus on. Despite a few small improvements - such as a marginal improvement in the in-work Universal Credit taper - lower earnings and cuts to benefit will mean falling living standards for most people.

Social workers frequently tell the Association they are struggling to cope with increasing demand for services for adults and for children and this is backed up by recent research and reports from the National Audit Office and the Care Quality Commission, amongst others. Increasing demand is closely linked to increasing poverty and worsening inequality, both from wider economic and employment pressures and from welfare and housing cuts. Reversing these is essential to end significant suffering and to ensure people can play their full part in our society.

Commenting on the Autumn Statement, BASW UK Chair Guy Shennan said: “There is very little in this statement to promote the government’s claims to be interested in a fairer or more equal society, including no new funding for adult social care or health just as the NHS and local authorities are facing the biggest holes in their finances of all time. The essential link between strong and effective health and social care and the overall wellbeing of society seems to be lost in this statement. The only thing offered in the statement to address the huge problem of falling productivity is investment in transport infrastructure and faster broadband, missing entirely the importance of training, development and better working conditions which are essential to reverse productivity decline.

“Social workers all around the UK can testify that Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake is not a work of fiction. A recent End Child Poverty Coalition study found that almost half of children are living in poverty in some parts of the UK. We cannot gloss over this bleak picture by referring to people as ‘JAMs’. If you think that statistics from Shelter show that 37% of all working families in England are just a month’s pay packet away from destitution, that makes ‘Daniel Blakes’ of at least a third of us. This rhetoric of ‘othering’ people both hides the reality of the pressures on the poorest and drives wedges through society at a time when we most need unity and common cause to deal with worsening economic and social problems”

“During the Brexit campaign, a pledge was made to spend £350 million a week more on the NHS, yet the Open Britain campaign group is now saying Brexit will cost £226million a week. There is a human face behind this bewildering array of statistics and a human cost. When are things going to change? We want to see – amongst other changes - an end to inhumane benefit sanctions and a re-think on the Housing Act. If the Government continues to push people to the limit then public services will in turn be overwhelmed and that is not going to help anyone, rich or poor.”

BASW will be publishing further pieces on the impact of the Autumn Statement on social work and social care.

Useful info

Read the Local Government Association (LGA) briefing HERE

Read a joint statement from the King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and The Health Foundation Foundation HERE