Skip to main content

Spending Review 2021: What BASW UK wants to see

There are several urgent and growing issues, such as poverty and lack of funding for services, that we want the Spending Review to address

On 27 October 2021, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will deliver a financial statement to the House of Commons. This statement will outline the UK Government's spending priorities.

There are several urgent and growing issues that we want the Spending Review to address:

Measures to reduce poverty in the UK 

Many people who use social work services will be impacted by measures that lead to more poverty. This will be reflected in the number and type of cases that are being referred to social work services. Poverty adds additional strain to already difficult circumstances for families or an individual, and social workers will see that through their work.

The impact of the Universal Credit cut has been downplayed by the Government, but the reality is that many people will be living on £20 less per week, which will inevitably take a toll on people’s way of life. We know that parenting can be difficult but parenting in poverty is so much more difficult. The cut will also have a drastic impact on the livelihoods of disabled people, and people with additional and complex needs.

The Government needs to announce how it will resolve the issue that people do not have enough money to live on. 

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. 

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

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.

Certainty of funding for social care

We have heard many promises made about the importance of social care and how it needs proper reform and sustainable funding. 

Despite the promises, the reform and funding has not been forthcoming. There must be a properly paid social care workforce, with the resources the sector needs to provide a high-standard to service users. 

Although social care is a devolved matter, increased spending in England on social care will deliver more funding for the rest of the UK for the devolved governments to spend and develop their own services. 

Small pieces of reform here and there are not resolving the social care crisis - decisive leadership is required to deliver the changes it needs.

Increased ringfenced funding for preventative, community mental health support

The combination of COVID-19 and financial pressures will have resulted in many more people experiencing poor mental health. We are still in a pandemic, and there will still be huge numbers of people feeling the impact of isolation because of a reduced social life. 

We are also concerned at the number of young people that may need support in the coming months and years. There must be properly resourced support for all those who need it. 

Proper mental health support does not exist without the funding, resource, and will of the Government to make it exist. 

The political context

Government statements on spending are as much about politics as they are about finance. Over the past 18 months, Boris Johnson’s personal public opinion rating has been taking the hit for bad news, while Rishi Sunak is enjoying one of the highest personal ratings of any UK politician. Voters associated the Chancellor with the announcements that they make – so Rishi Sunak will want to make sure that his announcement is communicated and received positively. 

Because of the massive public expenditure that happened throughout COVID-19, the Chancellor will want to cut spending while doing it in a way that looks positive for those whose votes he will want to retain. There will be some ‘good news stories’ such as £500 million for ‘family support hubs’, but Sunak will not remind the public that his party cut SureStart resulting in the centres closing down. The Government will grandstand that £500 million is a lot of money, but they spent billions on a ‘track and trace’ system that received a great deal of criticism about how it functioned, and issues about the provision of PPE. 

These announcements are a mix of sweet and sour – and it’ll be up to the public to determine which is more powerful.