Another budget, what do we know and what do we want?
On 15 March, Jeremy Hunt will stand outside 10 Downing Street proudly brandishing that red box, ready to announce his first full budget as chancellor.
After years of emergency budgets and unscheduled fiscal events, this means we’re finally back into a normal budget cycle.
But what do disabled people need from this budget, and what support can we expect from the Sunak/Hunt duo?
Cost of living
Cost of living is the issue that is at the forefront of most people’s minds.
People with complex disabilities were struggling even before this crisis. Our 2022 research showed that almost a quarter of people with complex disabilities were unable to keep their homes adequately warm.
To support disabled people through this cost of living crisis, Sense is calling for:
Benefits to be increased
In the Autumn statement in 2022 Hunt announced that benefits would rise in line with the level of inflation in October. This means that in April they will rise by 10.1%.
Although this has already been announced, we can expect that the Government will re-confirm this in the budget.
A social tariff
We’re working with several other charities to call for a social tariff on energy bills.
A social tariff would mean that disabled people pay a lower rate for their energy.
It is not just charities who support the idea of a social tariff. The energy regulator Ofgem have said that they think it is an option worth “serious consideration”. Energy UK, the trade association for the energy industry, also fully support it.
So, could it be announced this budget? This would be a large policy announcement from the Government so it’s unlikely it will be confirmed this time.
However, there is a lot of support for this policy and so there is the possibility that the Chancellor could announce a consultation on how to make energy more affordable.
The Government has also shown that energy is one of their priorities through the newly created Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Watch this space.
No surprises here. Adults social care has been underfunded for years and so Sense is calling for further investment in the system.
As someone who has been Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, as well as Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Hunt understands that social care needs more investment.
When he was Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee he called for £7 billion a year for social care. He’s Chancellor now – will he commit to the funding?
It seems unlikely that this level of investment is coming for social care.
Over the past few years, the Conservatives have introduced and paused several reforms to social care. It wouldn’t be surprising if they announced something else at the budget but it is unclear what that would be.
As well as the headline topics of cost of living and adult social care, we are also calling for additional investment in other areas that impact on disabled people.
- Specialist support for deafblind children – our research shows that there isn’t enough support available for deafblind children to access education. We want to see ringfenced funding for specialist teachers so that every child gets the support they need.
- Assistive technology – we know how important assistive technology is for disabled people but it’s also very expensive so many people don’t have their own. To support disabled people looking for work we’d like to see investment in assistive technology at job centres.
What does this all mean and what’s next?
A month out from the budget, we are unsure what the Government will invest in and what will be cut.
We have submitted our policy calls to the Treasury, and we will spend the next few weeks looking over all the news reports and rumours about the Government’s plans.
We also have Parliamentary activity planned for the week ahead of the budget so that, when the Chancellor announces his plans, disabled people are at the front of MPs minds.
We will update our blog on budget day to break down what has been announced and what it means for disabled people.