Opinion

1.6 million heroes!

Jonathan Freeman, CEO the CareTech Foundation

We are in the middle of the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes. Coronavirus has caused great hardship and put health systems under enormous strain, but it has also highlighted the vital contribution that care workers make to society. These 1.6 million amazing individuals are looking after the most vulnerable members of our communities at a time when they are most in need of help.

In every village, town and city across the country, social care workers are supporting the elderly, the infirm, the disabled and those with learning difficulties. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, care workers will continue to care for those who are most vulnerable and it is vital that we recognise their work and do what we can to support them.

Care workers across the nation have responded to the huge challenges of coronavirus. They are putting the interests of others ahead of their own, day in and day out. Their efforts are, quite simply, extraordinary. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. Not only are they doing a superb and vital job but they are doing one that the vast majority of us are unable or unwilling to do.

Although I am in awe of the contribution that care workers are making in the face of the current situation, I am not surprised by it. As Chief Executive of the CareTech Foundation, and through my own personal experience, I routinely witness so many examples of how those in the care sector represent the very best of us. Being a care worker is for so many a labour of love, a privileged position to help others, an opportunity to leave work at the end of the day knowing that you have made others’ lives so much richer and better.

Unfortunately, we know that individual care workers, their families and their communities will struggle during these difficult times. That is why at the CareTech Foundation we have taken steps to ensure that the Foundation’s Staff Hardship Fund and its Community Grant Fund remain open and accessible, so that help gets to those in need without delay.

The Foundation is also the Care Workers Charity’s new crisis fund, which aims to raise £1million to help care workers who are in need due to the impact of coronavirus on their work or their family. We have already seen a significant spike in the numbers of care workers in hardship, and we desperately need more funds for extra emergency grants. Almost as importantly, the campaign aims to shine a spotlight on care workers at this time of crisis.

Thankfully, the Government has recognised the vital efforts of care workers at this time by identifying them as key workers. The Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s letter to the social care sector was a tremendous boost to a sector that is really feeling the pressure but which has been all too often overlooked. Our country will never be quite the same after COVID-19. I hope that one long-term benefit will be that the Government, and society more generally, will finally fully appreciate the profession of social care (because that is what it is) and properly recognise the status of this vital skilled workforce.

In the meantime, the Foundation, its staff and its trustees, will continue to #ChampionSocialCare. We invite you all to do the same, and, if you can, please donate to the campaign. Now, more than ever before, we must recognise those on the frontline of this, caring for the most vulnerable people in our society. We must never again take our 1.6 million care workers for granted. We must accord them the respect and thanks that we rightly give to our NHS workers. The future of our society depends upon them – perhaps our own futures will depend upon them.

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