Wednesday saw the announcement of overall, a very light Budget.
Having ignored the Care Sector in his Autumn Statement last year, the Chancellor was forced to address the funding shortfall. The news of an additional £2 billion to Councils in England over the next three years to spend on adult social care is welcome. £1 billion of this will be provided in 2017-18, ensuring Councils can take immediate action to fund care packages for more people, support social care providers, and relieve pressure on the NHS locally. It indicates that the Government is starting to listen, however there is still a long way to go. The Green paper which will be published in autumn should determine how this additional money will help solve some of the problems caused by social care funding.
It is worth drawing attention to the confirmation that the Government will be ignoring the rulings of two tribunals which advised that the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) should cover a broader spectrum of claimants – specifically those with psychological problems and those who need help to take medication and monitor a health condition. Instead the Government is going to stick with its ‘original policy intent’. Although this does not directly affect people with sight loss it is important any developments surrounding PIP are monitored closely.
The Budget sought to invest in, and improve, skills including Return to Work support and Lifelong Learning Pilots. These will see the Government spend up to £40 million by 2018-19 to test different approaches to help people to retrain and upskill throughout their working lives. Whilst this is encouraging, employer attitudes towards people with sight loss is still a major issue, and people who are blind or partially sighted will only benefit from such investment when these issues have been addressed.
The increase of National Insurance contributions for self employed people will cause concern for those who fall in to this bracket and we know that this will affect many blind and partially sighted self employed people.
A final and worrying observation is that the chancellor failed to show that the government recognises the importance and invaluable role of the voluntary sector. We must continue to monitor changes to policies to ensure that the needs of people with sight loss are being met by challenging decisions and breaking down barriers where they exist.