A budget for rescue but not recovery Universal credit uplift and furlough extension welcome but public services underpinning recovery left perilously underfunded

3 March 2021

Responding to the Chancellor’s budget statement, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, commented:

‘While the Chancellor’s announcement provides necessary immediate support for businesses and individuals, the picture looks bleak for the public services that will support the nation’s health post-pandemic.

‘We and others called for the Chancellor to support the safety net for workers by extending the furlough scheme, so the inclusion of a commitment in this area is welcome. And while it is a positive step that the government is extending the Universal Credit uplift, this should be made permanent. As it stands the uplift is set to be withdrawn just as unemployment is projected to rise.

‘This statement also tests the Government’s claim to be the party of public services. Today’s figures show the public services playing a key role in supporting the nation’s health will bear an awful lot of strain. The Chancellor is aiming to get public sector net borrowing down to £73.7bn by 2025/26 and while some of this will be delivered through tax rises, as things stand, an additional £4bn a year cut to departmental budgets will also contribute. This means total real terms cuts of around £15bn a year from departmental spending. This won’t help the levelling up agenda.

‘Today’s statement is a cause for alarm for the NHS and social care too. There are still no proposals to address the broken social care system and the long commitment to reform remains unaddressed. And while funding was set aside for the NHS to manage the immediate COVID-19 crisis, the budget does not provide sufficient funding to support the direct costs of managing COVID-19 in 2021/22 and beyond. This raises major concerns about how the NHS will cope if COVID-19 is something we have to live with for years to come, as well as how to deal with the huge backlog of care, support rising demand for mental health services and make progress towards the long term plan. Any delays to long term investment in the workforce and capital infrastructure will also further slow the NHS’s progress towards recovery.’

Media contact

John Munro
john.munro@health.org.uk 
020 7257 2082 / 07834 374 297 

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