Isabel Hardman

What the Budget is missing

What the Budget is missing
(Photo by HM Treasury)
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If Daniel Defoe had been writing about modern budgets, he would have adapted his famous saying to include the certainty of death, taxes and an absence of a long-term plan for adult social care. Once again, the statement from the Chancellor had a yawning gap where the settlement for funding the beleaguered sector should be. There was no mention of social care in Rishi Sunak's speech or in the Budget Red Book, either. The government's answer to complaints about this is that ministers will publish a white paper on social care reform — but we've been hearing this line for years now.

Indeed, we might be hearing this line for longer than we're being led to believe currently. The Whitehall machine at least seems to be gearing up for yet another delay to social care reforms. Ministers have been saying they will announce them later this year, but two official government documents have recently said we should instead expect them next year. 

There's this official government response to a House of Lords Public Services Committee report, which reads: 'In the longer term, the government is committed to sustainable improvement of the adult social care system and will bring forward proposals next year.' Then there's this letter from Treasury minister Steve Barclay to the Future Social Care Coalition, which says exactly the same thing.

When I spoke to No. 10 about this, sources pointed me to Boris Johnson's words to the Liaison Committee in January that reform would be announced 'later this year'. There's always a chance, of course, that this sentence is being cut and pasted around Whitehall by civil servants who haven't noticed that it was originally written in 2020 with a view to reforms being published in 2021 and we are in fact now in 'next year'. But then again, they could turn out to be a Freudian slip.