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BASW UK Statement on The 2021 Budget

BASW UK has outlined its priorities for the upcoming Budget on 3 March

On 3 March the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will deliver his budget to the House of Commons, outlining the financial commitments of the Government. This will include both taxation and spending commitments.

Since the last budget, the economy has been hit hard due to Covid-19, with millions of people experiencing financial hardship.

All eyes will be on the Chancellor as he outlines what his plans are to steer the country’s economy through the coronavirus crisis.

BASW would like to see the Chancellor prioritise the following in the budget:

1. Extending the Universal Credit £20 uplift for a further 12 months

Household finances have been hit hard over the past year, with widespread job losses across the country. As a means of reducing this financial pressure, last year the Chancellor announced a £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit. There has been speculation that the Chancellor was considering ending this uplift and replacing it with a one-off payment or extending for just 6 months. BASW added our voice to the many organisations and individuals who have been calling for this to be extended for 12 months. This weekly £20 is a lifeline for many people, and with the job market looking unstable for the foreseeable future, this is not money that people can afford to lose.

2. Further measures to tackle child and family poverty, especially food poverty

Child hunger has taken the headlines several times over the course of the pandemic, and we know that children in poverty are more likely to be the subject of child safeguarding investigations. Many people are losing their jobs or facing months of furlough on reduced wages, which leads to a severe reduction in household income, forcing families to choose between heating and eating. In addition to retaining the £20 Universal Credit uplift, we are asking the Government to take bolder action against child poverty.

3. No return to austerity and fair pay for low paid staff

The government must not return to austerity measures and must give the public sector the funding they need to provide both statutory and non-statutory services to support people. BASW members will know all too well the impact of severely underfunded public sector on delivery of services, and the impact on our colleagues in social care who are often underpaid and overworked.

We are also concerned to learn that people from black and minority ethnic groups have been experiencing a greater rate of job losses than white people. There must be sufficient unemployment support for everyone, and the disparity between how ethnic groups have experienced the pandemic must be addressed to ensure this is rectified and prevented from happening in the future.

The finances for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Almost all taxes are set by Westminster, with funding expenditure allocated to the devolved nations through an annual grant calculated through the Barnett formula. Changes in spending levels allocated to public services in England will be reflected in the block grants received by the devolved nations. This means that when the Chancellor announces spending on a particular area or service that applies only to England, the devolved nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will receive a proportionate amount determined by the Barnett formula.

Westminster is responsible for social work services in England. BASW calls for:

4. Immediate investment in social work services for adults, children, and families in England

Whilst Government is obligated to provide funding for statutory services, the funding allocated for this has not been sufficient which has led to increased workforce pressures and high workloads.

However, adequate funding for statutory services is not enough. Investment in preventative services prevents larger bills later, and targeted services to individuals and groups who are ‘at risk’ will reduce costs further down the line. Not only is cutting preventative services a false economy, but prevention also means that service users receiving support at the earliest opportunity can reduce the drift to statutory or emergency intervention.

5. Funding to progress adult social care reform and sustainability in England

There needs to be a long-term financially sustainable solution to providing adequate and appropriate Adult Social Care. This has been talked about by Governments for twenty years and is long overdue.

6. Increase ringfenced funding for preventative, community mental health support in England

COVID-19 may have an unprecedented impact on mental health, with nearly a year of isolation from loved ones. Mass job losses reduced physical contact and restrictions on enjoyable parts of life will have had a huge impact on people’s wellbeing and how they respond to difficult circumstances.

Restoring the country’s finances

Responding to a pandemic is a costly exercise, with the Government costs of paying increased health costs (for example, ‘Track and Trace’, vaccination) furlough, support for businesses, and increased number of people on benefits. At the same time government income from tax has plummeted as there has been less people working and many businesses have slipped into loss or been forced to close. For the services that are needed to exist, revenue needs to be collected to fund them. The Government needs to make sure that the poorest in this country and future generations are not being burdened with this cost, and that instead the broadest shoulders carry more of the weight.