What does Budget 2021 mean for people with arthritis?

08 March 2021
Two people sat at a table looking at paperwork

On Wednesday 3 March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the UK Government’s Budget for tax and spending over the next year and the longer term.

The Budget is mostly focused on tax and spending in England, but does include grant funding to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So what did this year’s Budget mean for people with arthritis?

Supporting people to stay in work

The main priority of this Budget was to provide support for businesses, employers and employees during the remaining period of the pandemic.

In Budget 2021, the Government extended the Furlough Scheme, the Self Employment Income Support Scheme grants and will provide support for small and medium-sized employers to reclaim up to two weeks of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) costs per employee.

While we welcome these steps, the changing nature of work – with the shift towards home and flexible working – means that the Government will need to take further steps to support people to be able to remain in work in the coming months.

This includes ensuring that more people with arthritis can receive support from the Access to Work Scheme.

Reducing waiting lists

It was concerning to see that NHS England – which is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of the NHS in England – will see a reduction of funding by £9 billion for 2021/22 in comparison to the previous year.

Given the rise in people living with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions in England, we call for priority to be given to programmes within NHS England and Improvement supporting the recovery of musculoskeletal (MSK) services at a local level.

The Budget confirmed the Government’s pledge in the Spending Review to provide £1 billion to help reduce waiting lists for operations like hip and knee replacements.

We are awaiting clarity on how this funding will be spent, and NHS England and Improvement will be publishing a national framework for tackling waiting lists later this month.

Living well with arthritis

Physical activity and exercise are crucial to preventing and managing arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. The pandemic has had a big impact on access to indoor and outdoor leisure services, including the closure of gyms and leisure centres during the latest lockdown.

Versus Arthritis, along with 50 other organisations, signed a letter to the Prime Minister in February calling for measures to support the UK leisure sector.

We were pleased to see additional funding in the Budget for gyms and leisure centres to restart and funding to support community owned sports facilities. However, we endorse the statement from UK Active that further support is needed to ensure leisure facilities can re-open and stay open.

Funding for research

As a research funder, we were pleased to see a commitment by the Government to review R&D tax reliefs, invest in UK vaccine research, launch the Future Fund and VISA proposals to encourage talented researchers to work in the UK.

However, we echo the concerns of the AMRC and CaSE about the lack of specific support for charity-funded research, and the lack of clarity around the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe.

Get involved

We need to make sure that arthritis is kept high on the agenda as politicians work through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the voices of people with arthritis are the most powerful resource we have.

Join our campaign network and find out about our work to influence Government.

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