The public are unconvinced by austerity, see more effects of cuts on their lives and favour higher public spending, even if that means tax rises, reveals a new survey commissioned by Deloitte.
The survey also measured public awareness of, and readiness for, social care, finding low levels of familiarity with provision and limited financial planning.
The data was compiled by Ipsos MORI, who tracking 1,071 adults across the UK, and features in The State of the State 2017-18, Deloitte’s annual report on the pressures on public finances and the challenges facing public services. The report is produced in conjunction with the think tank Reform.
Support for spending reductions wanes
Deloitte’s survey tracked attitudes towards public spending, the impact of austerity on peoples’ lives and areas they feel should be protected from cuts. This found that:
- 57% of people do not want to see spending on public services reduced to pay off national debt, compared to 22% who do. Similarly, 52% of people would not accept less from the public services they use to pay down debt, versus 20% who would.
- Support for austerity has halved since the beginning of the decade. 54% said in a 2010 Ipsos MORI survey that they agreed with the need to cut public spending, down to just 22% in 2017.
- Respondents in Northern Ireland were the least likely to agree with the need to reduce spending, with those in the Midlands the most likely.
- 63% say that government spending should be increased to fund public services, even if that means increases to some taxes. This has risen from 59% in the same survey last year. 10% say taxes should be cut even if that means reductions in services, down from 12% last year.
- When asked to pick two or three areas of public spending that should be protected from any spending cuts, 80% chose the NHS, 49% chose education and schools and 32% chose police.
- 33% say they have personally been affected by spending cuts, up from 27% last year. 66% say they have been seen little or no effect of austerity, down from 72%.
- 41% of respondents in the North of England say they have been affected by spending cuts, the highest across all regions and nations, with just 22% of Scottish respondents say they have been affected.
Rebecca George OBE, lead public sector partner at Deloitte, said:
“The Chancellor was right to warn that people are growing weary of the long slog of austerity. This data shows people less convinced of the need to bring down public spending and increasingly seeing the effects of cuts in their everyday lives.
“Public clamour for an easing of austerity comes right at the point that the UK reaches the summit of its debt mountain and current spending plans are geared towards paying down both our deficit and the public debt. Balancing these two competing priorities will be a big challenge, particularly as the Chancellor looks ahead to next month’s Budget.”
Public unware and unprepared for social care
Deloitte and Ipsos MORI also surveyed adults on their awareness of social care provision and funding, and their own readiness to pay for the care they may need in later life. This found that:
- 63% of people wrongly think that the NHS provides social care services for older people, with 47% wrongly believing that social care is free at the point of need.
- 53% of people think that overall social care policy is inadequate, with just 32% expressing confidence that social care services will be there to support them when needed.
- 55% of people recognise that they need to save or make financial plans for their social care.
- 44% say they have thought about making financial preparations to pay for social care, with 31% not thinking about it at all. However, only 35% say they are already making these plans, with 43% saying that have made no plans at all.
- Only 22% of 15-24 year olds say they are making plans to finance social care, rising to 41% of those over 65.
- 22% of those earning under £17,500 per year are making plans for social care, compared to 51% of those earning over £50,000.
- 19% of social renters are making provision for social care, compared to 41% of owner occupiers and mortgage holders.
Caroline Hope, lead social care partner at Deloitte, said:
“With life expectancy rising and the social care system already under pressure, this survey paints of worrying picture. The public are largely uninformed about how social care is delivered in the UK, unconvinced by existing policy and unprepared for their own care.
“Government has continued to invest in social care but, on the ground, a spending gap continues to be felt. Not only is demand for services higher but the provider market is not able to service the need. Couple this with people being unprepared for their own care and the time for radical change must be now.”