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Austerity a never-ending story for seriously ill children and their families

News and comment

Announcing plans to increase government expenditure on the “people’s priorities” by £13.8 billion during 2020/21, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid claimed that the government’s Spending Round was “turning the page on austerity”. However, with no mention of children’s palliative care and a lack of clarity about how much councils will receive to fund social care for disabled children, the Spending Round means that austerity is still the reality for seriously children and their families.

In his statement, the Chancellor made a number of commitments which could have a positive impact on seriously ill children:

  • A 3.4% real terms increase in the Health Education England (HEE) budget, including £150 million for “personal development budgets” for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
  • £1 billion for local authorities in England to fund social care for children and adults.
  • A £700 million increase in high-needs funding for schools to help support children and young people with special educational needs.
  • £854 million additional funding to upgrade outdated NHS facilities and equipment in 20 hospitals; this is alongside a £1 billion boost to NHS capital spending in 2019-20 to allow existing upgrades to proceed and to tackle the most urgent infrastructure projects.
  • £250 million for artificial intelligence, including £78 million in 2020-21 to help improve cancer detection and discover new treatments.
  • £7 million for the Department of Work and Pensions to expand Jobcentre advisor support in schools for young people with special educational needs and extending eligibility for Access to Work to internships for disabled people.

Disappointingly however, the Chancellor stopped short of announcing a long-term, sustainable funding solution for children’s palliative care services.

Andrew Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives said:

“I welcome the government’s commitment to increasing Health Education England’s (HEE) budget; this could help to make sure that there are more professionals with the skills, knowledge and experience needed to provide children’s palliative care. It is vital that HEE begin to take children’s palliative care workforce shortages into account to make this a reality”

“While the social care funding commitments are welcome, we still do not know how much money local authorities will have to plug the gaping hole in local council funding for disabled children. The annual £434 million gap identified by the Disabled Children’s Partnership must be filled to make sure that seriously ill children can access sustainable services including short breaks for respite.”

“For too long, they have been subject to a sticking plaster approach. This was a missed opportunity to put the lifeline services that seriously ill children rely on, in hospitals, children’s hospices and in the community, on a sustainable financial footing.”

Read what we wanted the government to prioritise in the 2019 Spending Round here.

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