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Advocacy for Social Care: The National Council of Women

Yitka Graham

Dr Yitka Graham, National Elected Member, National Council of Women and Head of the Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute, University of Sunderland

The National Council of Women is a registered charity founded in 1895, originally to address the unfavourable working conditions facing women in the UK at that time. Within two years it was affiliated to the International Council of Women (ICW) and since then, has been working tirelessly to proactively focus on issues facing women in the UK and internationally. The NCW works closely with the European Network of ICW, and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and in 1969 became a founder member of the Women’s National Commission (1).

The NCW was awarded special consultative status at the United Nations in 2000, which has enabled us to further our work and collaborations by enabling representation at congresses such as the Commission on the Status of Women, held annually in New York, USA.

Over the course of our history, the NCW has responded to changes in society and in recent years has debated issues ranging from consumer awareness to developments and challenges in science and health, developing resolutions that are presented to Government and other decision-making agencies. We are a valuable source of information for members and pride ourselves on being a key support network for women in the UK.

Many of the issues we debate and campaign for action do not only affect women, but men, and society overall.  Recently, we put forward a resolution to call on the government to invest in research, development and innovation in the care sector. The rationale for this is to encourage the building of a robust infrastructure for high standards of care.

The resolution discussed the perception of care homes as a Cinderella service (2).  Often working in a complex and stressful environment, the estimated staff turnover of directly employed staff working in the adult care sector 2018-19 was 31% (3). The pandemic has only increased these factors (4).  Better support, training, development of staff is needed across the sector, to ensure that retention, not just recruitment is taken into account.  The knowledge and skills of the workforce need to be valued and illuminated, not lost.  Within this investment, quality apprenticeships should be prioritised, to encourage younger people to consider care homes as a long-term career option.

The COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected residential care homes and led to a loss of confidence. Initial reports suggest that 40% of people over 65 say they are less likely to seek residential care for themselves and 31% of people are less likely to choose care homes for an elderly relative (5).

Whether we are considering a care home for ourselves or a relative as a place of care, working in a care home thinking about employment in social care, or simply concerned about the future of care in the UK, the issues facing the care home industry affect us all.

Research into policy and practice attracts less attention than other parts of healthcare, but these deserve an urgent national focus.  As the pandemic continues, we need to ensure that our care home system is supported not just now, but for the future.

For more information on the NCW, please take a look at our website, http://ncwgb.org/. We are an open and inclusive organisation, and we always welcome new members (http://ncwgb.org/join/).

References

  1. National Council of Women. The National Council of Women 2020 [Available from: http://ncwgb.org/.
  2. The adult social care workforce in England [press release]. London: Department for Health and Social Care, Feb 8 2018https://www.nao.org.uk/press-release/the-adult-social-care-workforce-in-england/ 2018.
  3. Skills for Care. The state of the adult care workforce in England Leeds: Skills for Care; 2020 [Available from: https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/adult-social-care-workforce-data/Workforce-intelligence/publications/national-information/The-state-of-the-adult-social-care-sector-and-workforce-in-England.aspx.
  4. Hayes C, Graham Y. HCA roles in COVID-19: the emotional cost of sacrifice. British Journal of Healthcare Assistants. 2020;14(5):246-9.
  5. Quilter-Pinner H, Sloggett R. Care after coronavirus: an emerging consensus London: Institute for Public Policy Research; 2020 [

 

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