As I consider the thoughts passing through my mind at 3 in the morning, it always seems to settle on the same theme: “What would I want for social care and can it happen at a time when everything is so uncertain?”
From the smallest to the largest care service providers across the country, all share a singular ambition; to enable people to live as independently as possible, living the life they chose.
There are so many aspects to this and I believe social care is often seen through a limited lens; many do not realise the range of services provided, nor do they appreciate the lengths care staff go to for the people they support and in their care.
Much of the media focus this year has been on services for older people, particularly care homes. Understandable, as the impact of Covid-19 has been immense, however this represents less than 40 per cent of all social care services.
My wish is for the public to see all of the other 60 per cent types of care services – including care in people’s own homes, in supporting living facilities and support through day centres. And even more for the public – and press – to recognise the essential role that care workers play in preventing the need for acute care by supporting people’s independence and well-being.
My hope is that, regardless of whether someone is living with a long-term condition, mental health episode, learning or physical disability, they should have the same profile and priority, whatever their age.
All social care and support is about the person. Personalised care occurs every day and in every part of our country by the extensive depth and breadth of services we provide. The ideal outcome is that everyone – regardless of their physical or mental health – is able to contribute and engage, and be accepted by the society they live in.
I have to caveat this with the other nightly thought I have: how can we collectively recognise and value the skills and dedication of our brilliant social care workforce?
It is vital we support and remunerate the workforce as valued skilled professionals. As Chair of the Care Provider Alliance whose members support a workforce of over 620,000 individuals, I regularly talk with a wide range of providers; collectively we all agree, care colleagues should have key worker status and access to multiple benefits, similar to NHS employees.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen many high street brands reach out and offer, for the first time, benefits to our workforce in a way that has been truly valued. It is however only one step on the pay and conditions journey we want to provide, if public funding were in line with the true costs of payroll.
In the longer term, I wish for our government’s commitment to policy reforms which will provide all care staff with the same reward and remuneration package given to our allied health colleagues.
Last but not least, I am also concerned about how social care services can reach the marginalised communities across the UK.
We are now, more than ever, acutely aware of the health inequalities of those living in deprived areas, and for citizens from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds; for some of us, our parents, siblings, children and family would not be able to live in the community without social care support.
And so, the question I return to before counting ever more sheep is this:
do we have the courage to radically change a system to properly recognise a workforce for what it does, and to provide the seamless support that gives people, not just a service, but a life?