No lifeline for social care in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement

It's no surprise that the leader of the opposition chose to focus on health and social care as he took on the Prime Minister in the Commons before the Autumn Statement.

If the Chancellor had a rabbit to pull from his hat, the mounting crisis in social care funding was an obvious candidate for a windfall. But Jeremy Corbyn's call for the government to plug the gap and address the "stress and fear" it causes went unanswered.

For those responsible for providing social care, the last few years have been unremittingly bleak. Local authorities have been forced to pare provision back.In many areas, it's now only the poorest and most needy who qualify for help.

Six years of unprecedented cuts to town hall budgets have seen the number of people eligible for council-funded care fall by a quarter. That means no help with basic everyday tasks like washing, eating and getting dressed.

Teresa May gave an early clue her Chancellor wouldn't address the problem, by insisting "We can only afford to pay for the NHS and social care if we have a strong economy". A line much beloved of George Osborne, it is beginning to sound a little glib.

In fact the Chancellor had been speaking for well over half an hour before he first mentioned the health service. He argued the government is delivering with its pledge of another £10 billion by 2021. That figure is disputed by leading health think tanks and the Health Select Committee, chaired by a Tory, who put it closer to £4.5 billion.

But on social care, Philip Hammond said nothing. As the Prime Minister pointed out in PMQ's, local authorities have been allowed to raise council tax by 2% to help plug the funding gap. But, especially in poorer areas where council tax receipts are low, the "social care precept" has barely touched the sides.

The Chancellor closed his Autumn Statement by calling it a plan that "provides help to those who need it now." But the four in five local authorities who say they are struggling to provide care for the elderly may feel somewhat differently.