Disabled people could face fresh cuts to spending on social care and other services and benefits in future years, campaigners fear.
The concerns were raised after the chancellor, George Osborne, announced that cuts to public spending would continue for an extra two years beyond the end of the current parliament in 2015.
Osborne said in Tuesday’s autumn statement that there would be real cuts of 0.9 per cent to public spending in both 2015-16 and 2016-17, although he has not announced how those cuts would be spread among government departments.
There was better news for disabled people claiming benefits, with Osborne announcing that most working-age and disability benefits will be “uprated” by 5.2 per cent in April, as will pensions.
This increase is in line with this autumn’s consumer prices index (CPI). There had been fears that Osborne would announce an increase beneath the level of the CPI, but he told MPs he wanted to “protect those who are not able to work because of their disabilities and those who, through no fault of their own, have lost jobs and are trying to find work”.
Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said that “one of the biggest fears” was that the government would look to make further cuts to local government spending from 2015-16, on top of the cuts in government funding of local authorities of 26 per cent by 2014-15. Councils spend a significant amount of their budgets on social care.
Coyle said it would be “catastrophic” to ask disabled people to accept any further cuts, as they were already the “hardest hit” by the government’s spending reductions.
Anne McGuire, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said an analysis of the autumn statement by the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed the measures would mean “even more people would be pushed into poverty”.
She said: “This is obviously of grave, grave concern because we know disabled people are more likely to be poor than non-disabled people.”
Meanwhile, a report from the NHS Information Centre (NIC) has revealed that spending on adult social services in England had fallen even before the spending cuts introduced by the coalition government last year.
Spending rose slightly from £16.8 billion in 2009-10 to £17.0 billion in 2010-11, but after allowing for inflation this was a fall of two per cent.
The figures also reveal that the number of service-users receiving support after a community care assessment by their local authority fell by seven per cent between 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Councils told NIC the fall was due to stricter eligibility criteria, the decision by some councils to scrap some types of services, and other reasons such as “data cleaning”.
The number of people receiving community-based services also fell significantly, from 1.46 million in 2009-10 to 1.34 million in 2010-11, a drop of eight per cent.
1 December 2011