Our verdict on Autumn Budget 2021

Gemma Hope

We needed to see a lot from today’s Budget to support social care, equal employment, and supporting disability rights worldwide. But did it deliver? Our Director of Policy Gemma Hope gives us her verdict.

Rob, a volunteer, with Sam, a resident, in his bedroom at Lavender Fields

Social care: what’s the plan?

It’s disappointing to see a lack of significant, emergency funding for social care in this budget. While we welcome the new grant for councils, it is optimistic to believe that it will address the severe challenges faced in social care. We need to see increased funding now, specifically ring-fenced for social care. Funding that will better support disabled people and help alleviate the current pressures on a workforce that is so critical within society. 

The minimum wage rise is welcome and necessary and will help to support the social care workforce. But again, we need to see detail on how it will be resourced, as the social care funding black hole widens further.

Social care is a vital but often underappreciated and misunderstood sector, with its workers playing an essential role in supporting disabled people to live as independently as they choose. Extra investment and further reform is needed urgently to help secure life-changing care for many individuals. Support that means disabled people can spend time with friends and family, travel, pursue education and establish careers.

The pandemic has had a disproportionately negative impact on disabled people and on the entire social care sector and yet again we’re seeing disabled people being left behind. We need to see the government bolstering its plans for reform of social care with an immediate more significant cash injection, otherwise, a lack of a clear action plan will continue to be felt by the people who need it most.

Why we won’t ‘level up’ if employment plans and welfare aren’t inclusive

Today’s investment in skills as part of the government’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ is news we can welcome – with a few reservations. The funding package has the potential to support disabled people, but only if the new schemes it pays for are designed inclusively. 

Work-related inequality for disabled people is an issue that runs deep, and disabled people are still shouldering more of the pandemic’s economic impact than their non-disabled peers. Investment in ‘levelling up’ needs to take this into account. The government needs to direct funding to specialist employment support programmes for disabled people to give them more equal access to work. And these support mechanisms need to be inclusive from the ground up.

Welfare spending also needs to take employment inequalities and the impact of the pandemic into account. Easing the drop in Universal Credit payments for low-earners in work is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t do enough to account for the extra costs of having a disability, or that disabled people are more likely to be out of work. The latter will still have faced a welfare cut with the end of the £20 Universal Credit uplift and the failure to ever extend it to those on legacy benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance.

Why not reversing foreign aid cut could undermine UK role

At the G7, the UK made a pledge to support and enable girls' education around the world. Plans to restore our foreign aid contribution to 0.7% of GDP by 2024/25 are welcome, but they can’t come soon enough. The longer we wait, the more the shortfall risks undermining the government’s best intentions for girls education. 

Disabled people around the world faced the biggest impact from the pandemic, and this was very much true of education too. Foreign aid has long helped more disabled people, especially disabled women and girls, to enter school. But the fact remains that this group is still far more likely to drop out of education, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this inequality.

The UK has been instrumental in improving quality of life for disabled people in developing nations, and access to education. But the longer we put off restoring funding to support people with disabilities globally, the more we risk jeopardising what we have achieved.