Budget a mixture of ‘peril and promise’ - Bubb

ACEVO chief executive Sir Stephen Bubb has welcomed some Budget measures while warning of the impact of the “perilous” fiscal outlook and benefit restrictions could have on the most vulnerable.

Chancellor George Osborne today delivered a Budget including a living wage, and £8bn in funding for the NHS out to 2020 to implement the Stevens Plan.

Welfare changes include freezing working-age benefits, including tax credits and Local Housing Allowance, for four years from 2016-17. The change does not include Maternity Allowance, maternity pay, paternity pay and sick pay.

The household benefit cap will be reduced to £20,000, or £23,000 in London.

Support through Child Tax Credit will be limited to two children for children born from April 2017, and 18 to 21 year olds on Universal Credit will have to apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship, gain work-based skills, or go on a work placement six months after the start of their claim.

“The Chancellor’s budget delivered a mixture of peril and promise,” Sir Stephen said. “A four year freeze on benefits, welfare caps set at £20k across the UK (£23k in London) and family benefits restricted to two children. In-work benefits are set to be aggressively tapered, which may well decrease the incentives to increase working hours if structured poorly. The peril is that these measures may push vulnerable people closer to the wall."

However, Sir Stephen hailed the living wage proposal as a tribute to the collective voice of voluntary sector campaigners who have argued for change. Devolution represents an opportunity for the sector, he said, stressing properly devolved public services and a sustainable NHS cannot be achieved without working hand-in-glove with charities and social enterprises.

While the additional NHS funding was welcome, Sir Stephen the funds are not “a sop to the NHS’ overstretched finances”. Rather, the funding is the minimum needed to keep the NHS going.

“That must be allied to a radical programme of change – which requires a substantial ramping up of community care. Our work on Winterbourne View has made the case for greater community provision for people with learning disabilities and/or autism – this agenda will gain momentum from hereon in.”

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