Local government and health bosses have reacted with fury after the chancellor failed to address cross-sector calls to plug the soaring social care funding gap.
Momentum has built behind a torrent of warnings from social care directors, providers, charities, health bosses, academics and finance experts that the social care sector was not sustainable and was piling further pressure on an already crippled NHS.
Despite hopes that Philip Hammond would offer some relief for the struggling sectors, his first – and last – Autumn Statement bore no fruits.
Society of Local Authority Chief Executives president Jo Miller said social care was the ‘elephant in the room’.
She said: ‘It is almost universally understood that the system is extremely fragile and negatively impacts on an NHS which is also under pressure.
‘Many across both sectors had hoped for some concession from the chancellor – a recognition of the seriousness of the situation and some clear measures to tackle it. It is disappointing that this has not happened.'
iMPOWER's social care director, Jeremy Cooper, said that, while the Government's focus was on 'just about managing' families, this Autumn statement would be seen as the 'last missed chance for a social care sector that has been "just about managing" to avoid crisis.'
Association of Directors of Adult Social Services immediate past president Ray James said the Government had 'plainly ignored a wide range of respected voices,' including the Care Quality Commission, the National Audit Office, the Health Select Committee, professional bodies, charities, care providers, independent experts and leading figures in the NHS.
Chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board Cllr Izzi Seccombe said the lack of announcement meant social care remained in crisis and that councils and the NHS continued to be 'pushed to the financial brink'.
She warned that more care providers would inevitably leave the publicly-funded care market or cease trading.
Cllr Seccombe said: 'There cannot be a sustainable NHS without a sustainable adult social care system.
'The Government cannot ignore this crisis. It must recognise why social care matters and treat it as a national priority.'
NHS Confederation chief executive Stephen Dalton said the Treasury had 'missed a golden opportunity to ease the strain on the NHS'.
He said: 'While the Government is right to review long-term spending plans, social care services are in crisis right now.
'The Government has turned a blind eye to the stresses and strains being felt in the health and social care system.
'Relying on a political rhetoric that promises to protect the NHS, but fails to acknowledge that a cut in social care results in a cost to the NHS, is an economic deception.'
The increase in the National Living Wage - from £7.20 to £7.50 - will be a further blow to the sector.
The Resolution Foundation has calculated the new wage would leave a funding gap of around £1.4bn in the sector.
Independent Age chief executive Janet Morrison added: ‘The longer we ignore the problem, the worse it will get.
‘No additional funding has been forthcoming and consequently hundreds of thousands of frail and elderly will continue to suffer as care services are cut back and fall into decline.’