Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer
Our care system is in crisis, crumbling beneath us after years of austerity and chronic underfunding. Social care is an essential part of any civilised society.
We have an ageing population that needs support and access to high quality, sustainable services so they can live with dignity. Our carers are over-worked and undervalued – despite finally being recognised as the essential key workers they are during the pandemic. They must be celebrated, recognised and valued. Social care is in desperate need of reform, yet Ministers have failed to implement any credible plan.
The new Health and Social Care Bill currently working its way through Parliament utterly fails to address reform, funding or the workforce crisis. The appalling underfunding of social care was brought into sharp focus by the pandemic. The nation watched in horror as the catastrophic impact of years of neglect unfolded.
The current funding model of social care is broken – it’s fallen apart to the detriment of service users and workers. Increasing National Insurance payments to pay for care is not the answer. Of course, any additional funding is welcome – but hitting the pockets of the low-waged carers themselves is not the way forward.
Meanwhile social care won’t see a penny for years and is once again not considered a priority, and yet a properly funded social care sector would alleviate pressures on the NHS.
A fundamentally different approach to social care funding is essential. It must be clear and transparent (where does the cash go?) but also address poverty pay rates, inadequate training and development and provide economic justice for the social care workforce.
Social care workers must have the dignity and recognition they deserve. GMB believes that starts with a minimum £15 per hour wage. Carers deserve professional recognition, with access to national training standards and genuine career progression. An effective model of registration is required in England, in line with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
We must have safe staffing levels – there were 110,000 staffing vacancies across social care prior to the pandemic. We are looking at 170,000 by the end of the year. This will put monumental pressure on the existing workforce and have a detrimental impact on the service being provided. Care workers deserve to feel safe at work so they can deliver quality care to those who need it.
Social care has become fragmented as more and more private companies take over the delivery of care. National Sectoral Bargaining would assist in reaching the aim of fair pay and terms right across social care, irrespective of employer.
Lastly, we need a National Care Service, funded from the public purse through taxation, that formalises a universal pay structure with excellent terms and conditions. A system that is focussed on care and not on profits
he potential long-term impacts of Covid-19, Brexit and the Government’s Immigration Policy on social care is currently unknown. But what we can say without doubt is that the impacts will be severe.
GMB is urging all social care workers to join the union and get involved in campaigning for a better care system for all.