An older woman is helped by a Red Cross volunteer as she walks outside with a walking frame

When Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled his Autumn Statement today, the British Red Cross hoped to see funding for care on the agenda. Without funding, this humanitarian crisis will not only persist – it will get worse.  

One million older people now have unmet needs for care and support. There have been cuts to funding over the last five years totalling £4.6 billion. And half a million fewer people are receiving care than ten years ago.

We’ve all seen snippets in the news of this crisis – from the shortage of hospital beds, to rushed carer visits. Alongside the challenge of an ageing population, further cuts simply do not make sense. It’s time to invest: and smartly. This is a crisis we can no longer ignore.

First-hand experience

Last year, the Red Cross helped over 80,000 people through our 160 independent living services across the UK.

We deliver short-term support to help people live independently at home. In turn, this helps alleviate pressure from the health and social care sector.

Collaboration with organisations like us has been shown to improve wellbeing and resilience, reduce hospital admissions and bring down costs over time.

But as the care situation deteriorates, we are being called out to help in increasingly complex situations by people who have nowhere else to turn.

Our staff and volunteers have witnessed unthinkable situations – from people left with nobody to change their urinary catheter, to others who haven’t taken vital medication. This is a crisis at risk of spiralling.

False economy

Put simply, cutting funding is a false economy. As part of the Care and Support Alliance, the Red Cross urged the UK government to use the Autumn Statement to give social care the funding it deserves.

We are disappointed that the social care funding gap has not been addressed in today’s Autumn Statement.

We call on the Government to rethink their decision and allocate immediate funding to stabilise our care and support system, as well as create a sustainable funding settlement for the future.

At the very least, money allocated to the Better Care Fund should be released immediately – not in two years’ time.

Prevention is better than cure

We also still want to see a focus on funding preventative services. The UK’s health and social care system largely reacts to crises rather than preventing them. But prevention is better than cure.

Across the country, some great services ensure people do not require greater care. But they exist in pockets and face the same challenge of overstretched funds.

Although prevention has been recognised by the government as important, having been enshrined in law via the Care Act 2014 and featured as a key component of the NHS Five Year Forward View, without proper funding it cannot be fully realised.

This piece was written by Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross.

This blog was updated on 23 November following the results of the Autumn Statement.