Early on in the pandemic at MHA, we took the decision to speak out on the injustices towards those who were providing care to older people in our care homes and the sector as a whole. Time after time, we had to fight for enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for our staff, testing for our residents and staff, the debacle around sending people out from hospitals to care homes without testing and many other decisions being made without consultation with the sector.
All of this was happening against a backdrop of our care staff working tirelessly to ensure the quality and delivery of care remained the priority.
What I, and many in the sector felt, was how this was symptomatic of the way in which successive Governments have viewed the adult social care sector and treated us.
Initially the pressure of the pandemic seemed to focus on the NHS, but we wanted to make clear that those in care were the second frontline in dealing with Covid-19.
For a few short weeks in Spring 2020 it did feel as though care homes were at the forefront of the Government’s minds. But that feeling soon disappeared and once again we found ourselves the forgotten and hidden sector.
Over the past couple of decades we’ve had white papers, green papers, commissions and promises of reform about the future of social care. In his first speech as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised to bring forward plans for reform.100 weeks on and we are still waiting.
Our sector deserves more. The people we support and care for deserve more. Care workers deserve more.
Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on the inadequacies of the nation’s complex, fragmented and underfunded adult social care system.
To combat that, I’ve been calling on people to join us in helping to #FixCareForAll. We still have too many older people unable to access the care they need, a complex, unequal and fragmented system that causes distress and confusion for people when they need support most. Dedicated and hard-working staff are wrongly labelled low-skilled and are too often underpaid for the life-changing work they do.
Thousands have joined our rallying call for the Government to reform care once and for all. We want to see a social care system that is fully resourced with a fair price for care, a national workforce strategy that values our people and transparency and accountability through regulating the system. In addition, there also needs to be care which is co-designed by older people and the sector and seamless pathways between health and social care
I’ve always been proud of the fact that we invest in our frontline workers by paying them the Real Living Wage, recognising and valuing the care and support they give our residents, as well as providing them with additional benefits.
But we are only one of a handful of providers that makes this recognition. Many in our sector often only pay the minimum wage. This coupled with not having a fully funded and comprehensive workforce plan means the care sector struggles to fill vacancies.
One of our calls is for care workers, my colleagues, to be recognised for the incredible work they do, for their professionalism, for their dedication. Any sector reform needs to have a long term social care workforce strategy to improve recruitment and retention, recognising and rewarding the skills of people. It needs to recognise there are clear career pathways for people, more consistent training options and increases in pay and benefits across the board to bring social care workers in line with NHS staff.
Together we can fix care for all.