Standing on the steps of Downing Street, Boris Johnson promised to solve the social care crisis. He has made clear that he intends to ensure no one need sell their home in order to pay for their care. To date, however, these bold and important commitments are yet to be underpinned by detail on how the improvements will be achieved or, indeed, how much they might cost.
The Prime Minister has committed to an additional £1billion funding for social care next year. This is welcome but all commentators have acknowledged that it will be barely enough to keep the social care sector going as it is – let alone sufficient to provide the improvements that those who need care deserve. To bring about genuine change there needs to be a complete overhaul of society’s approach to social care.
We know that the care sector faces problems which it will take more than words to fix, but it is encouraging that the Government has made this critical issue a priority. The UK’s ageing population means that growing numbers are in need of care and increasingly they have more complex care needs, but too often the care sector is treated as an afterthought. Similarly, the numbers of individuals with learning difficulties is increasing. At the CareTech Foundation, we have made it our mission to change the way society views the care sector. With our #ChampioningSocialCare campaign, we are pushing for greater support of the social care sector, care workers and those living in care.
I believe that if we are to make the kind of dramatic improvements that the social care system requires, we need to drastically re-examine the way the public – and politicians – think about care and care workers.
We rightly respect the work of doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health professionals. We recognise their service to our communities and we are grateful for the way in which they look after our friends and family members when most in need. The same should be true of care workers but, in truth, care work is often seen as less important or less worthwhile than other professions.
Those who work in care are highly-trained, dedicated professionals who perform a demanding job. Whether it be young people with learning disabilities or those in later life, care workers help people who are often in desperate need. Typically, they do so in difficult circumstances, with little fanfare or gratitude. It’s time we changed that and showed care workers the appreciation they deserve.
A recent report from the Care Workers’ Charity shows that carers aren’t getting the support they need. It is a sorry state of affairs when care workers, who spend so much time looking after the needs of others, end up not having the care they need to look after themselves. Care work can be emotionally and physically draining, and it’s vital that no carer should have to face these issues alone. Across the sector, we need to ensure that we put in place the best possible support, training and development for care workers. Without such support, the morale and well-being of teams is affected, and carers don’t feel supported to do their jobs well. And commissioners must recognise that the costs of such support are an essential part of what it takes to provide care appropriately.
It is obvious that there’s no single, easy fix for the care sector and that it will take time for the real improvements we need to become a reality. But, with the Government promising to make social care a priority, I am optimistic that this will lead to greater recognition for our care workers. As leaders in care though, we cannot afford to wait for government action to bring about the change our sector so desperately needs. We all have a duty to ensure that in 2020 we are #ChampioningSocialCare, so that each and every care worker feels valued and supported in their work.