The budget should address cuts and chronic underfunding | Letters

Letters
A baby in hospital. ‘Last year local authority funding for children’s palliative care charities was cut by a staggering 61%’, writes Barbara Gelb of Together for Short Lives. Photograph: Garo/Phanie/Rex Features

Social care is on the edge of a financial cliff, with years of cuts and under-investment impacting on the sector’s stability and calling its long-term sustainability into question. Many have been waiting with bated breath for a long-term government solution to this growing crisis, and while some action has been taken, it has not been anywhere near enough to save the current system, which is completely unsustainable and at real risk of total collapse.

An immediate funding settlement of at least £1bn will help stave the pressing financial issues, but ultimately, this only presents a short-term solution, stabilising the sector for the next year. A one-off payment, no matter how much, will not help to preserve the future of vital social care services, which enable older and disabled people to live with dignity, independently and as active members of their community. If it truly wishes to guarantee the future of the sector, the government must also provide a strategy and long-term agreement on how we, as a society, fund social care, and what care options should be available.

With the spring budget looming, it really is now or never for social care. Financial woes can no longer be ignored; the government must resolve the critical issues the sector is facing and finally deliver the funds and long-term sustainability plan it urgently requires.
Richard Kramer
Deputy CEO, Sense

• We are writing as representatives of some of the organisations who demonstrated on Saturday in support of the NHS. We were delighted that hundreds of thousands turned out in support of our world-renowned free healthcare system and in opposition to further privatisation and underfunding. Health workers and users from across the country were well represented and demonstrated the scale of opposition to government policies. We fear, however, that this Tory government is determined on further cuts in real terms to our health service, to care of the elderly and to other public services. We would like to place on record our continued opposition to these cuts and to government austerity policies, and to stress that this demonstration was only the beginning of a mass campaign to reverse these inhumane and damaging cuts. We urge Philip Hammond to use his budget this week to fully fund our vital public services. We are not prepared to see the services our parents and grandparents fought for be destroyed.
John McDonnell MP
Julie Hesmondalgh Actor
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite the Union
Dave Ward General secretary, CWU
Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS
Kevin Courtney General secretary, National Union of Teachers
Sam Fairbairn National secretary, People’s Assembly
Streve Turner Co-chair, People’s Assembly
Amelia Womack Co-chair, People’s Assembly
Dr Louise Irvine South London GP, Chair, Save Lewisham hospital
Dr Tony O’Sullivan Keep Our NHS Public
Francesca Martinez Comedian
Jolyon Rubinstein Comedian 
Jacqui Berry, Our NHS demo group, Unison NEC
Marvina Newton One Day Without Us
Dot Gibson National Pensioners Convention
Danielle Tiplady RCN activist and nurse
Keith Venables Chair, Health Campaigns Together
John Rees Counterfire
Dr Mona Kamal Ahmed Forensic psychiatrist
Dr Aislinn Macklin-Doherty Junior Doctors Alliance
Lindsey German Stop the War Coalition





















• When the chancellor commends his budget to the House of Commons this week, he will most likely claim that he is setting Britain on a path to a shared society. But such a claim will only be justified if he announces much-needed support for those who are not just about managing, but just about managing to survive – the 49,000 children across the UK with life-limiting conditions and their families. At a time when the number of these most vulnerable children is increasing, government funding for the services they rely on is being cut. Last year local authority funding for children’s palliative care charities was cut by a staggering 61%. This despite the fact that the cost of delivering lifeline care to these most vulnerable children and families rose by 10% in the same year. 

As a first step to rectifying this, we are calling on the chancellor to increase the size of the NHS’s grant to children’s hospices and announce measures which remind councils, CCGs and health boards that they have a responsibility to these children and their families who care for them 24/7. We ask this on behalf of our 900 members, including children’s palliative care charities, hospices and professionals doing their best for seriously ill children, and on behalf of the 49,000 children with life-limiting conditions because their voice goes unnoticed too often. They too deserve a quality of life, however short.
Barbara Gelb
Chief executive, Together for Short Lives

• Dieselgate has been described as one of the greatest public health scandals in living memory; and last week researchers at MIT estimated an extra 1,200 deaths from the use of VW’s defeat devices just in Germany. The equivalent figure for the EU is around 5,000. Yet there is no indication that the chancellor has any plans to protect the public from the reckless and illegal policies adopted by car manufacturers (Opinion, 6 March). If the government increased fuel duty and vehicle excise duty for diesel cars, then the monies could be used to invest in non-polluting technologies, and the UK could become a world leader in clean energy and green transport. Instead we have an administration that rivals President Trump in its addiction to fossil fuels.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Ex-chair, Campaign for Lead Free Air, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

• Conservatives may well be “instinctively hostile to the taxation of wealth” as Matthew d’Ancona asserts. Not surprising really, as most Conservative politicians are themselves wealthy. But most private wealth is inherited and that inheritance is created not by effort but by asset bubbles, particularly in housing. Failure to tax wealth thus gives a huge advantage to those lucky enough to own assets in parts of the country where asset inflation has been highest, surely no incentive to that other Tory value of hard work.

Taxation of wealth on transfer, whether inter vivos or on death, is the fairest tax of all. It has no losers, only disappointed expectations. It puts wealth created by public policy back into public benefit. It should also reorientate capitalism away from its current rapid drift towards a new aristocracy, where unjust rewards accrue to those least in need, and calm house price inflation.
Roy Boffy
Sutton Coldfield

• The debate on inheritance tax (Opinion, 2 March) focuses on the wrong issue: the lower threshold for IHT. The real problem is the upper threshold – not a precise value set by parliament, but we all know it exists. Above it are so many exemptions, trusts, loopholes, schemes, dodges and scams, that IHT becomes entirely voluntary. Two-thirds of Britain’s 60m acres are owned by 0.4% of the population, and are largely exempt from IHT. As this land never comes to market, these grotesque perpetual fortunes distort life for the other 99.6% of us. If massive landowners had to pay 40% IHT, like anyone else, it would raise tens of billions per year; 92% of people never pay IHT. It’s a tax you don’t have to pay until you’re dead; and land cannot be hidden or removed to a tax haven; what’s not to like?
Martin Lyster
Oxford

• The Brexit campaign promised that millions saved from EU contributions could support the NHS. Now the chancellor tells us (Chancellor to build reserves for Brexit risks, March 6) that he needs to use billions from tax revenues that could have gone to the NHS to deal with “uncertainties arising from Brexit”. Hmm. “You can fool all the people some of the time...”
Canon David Kirkwood
Derby

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