A leading Think Tank Report released on 19th January, deserves urgent attention and immediate implementation of its recommendations.
The Resolution Foundation (RP) study strips bare the disgraceful level of pay and regressive employment conditions that pollute the whole social care sector across the UK. The care of the elderly has been woefully neglected for decades by successive Labour and Tory governments both wedded to the free market philosophy that profit is God and the role of the state in the provision of services should be stripped to the bone. That creed of greed and allegiance to the private good/public bad religion has failed the most vulnerable and our elderly citizens miserably as well as those who work in social care.
Only a tiny minority of care homes in the UK are now under public local authority ownership as years of cuts to local council budgets forced provision of elderly care into the under regulated private sector where care became all about profit and loss and nothing about care and compassion. The facts revealed in the RP study should shame the current batch of government Ministers and all those who held office over the last twenty years. Around one million people work in social care and over half of them are paid below the Living Wage of £9.30 per hour set by the Living Wage Foundation, hundreds of thousands are suspected of being paid below even the legal minimum wage and job insecurity is rife with social care workers being four times more likely to be on zero hours contracts than any other worker.
Frontline Social Care Workers Need Proper Pay Not Badges
The frontline social care workforce is eighty-three percent women with a significant number of lone parents and black and ethnic minority employees. They are daily subjected to poverty wages, job insecurity and inadequate training and equipment. We are rightly raging that NHS workers in hospitals are being denied necessary PPE amid the covid19 crisis but care home workers and those employed to care for the elderly in the community are also denied the potentially life saving equipment. They are daily caring for the most vulnerable but also the most susceptible to infection.
These social care workers do not need hypocritical applause, meaningless platitudes, or metal badge gestures. They need proper pay and employment conditions and they need them now. Health Minister Hancock referred to his new badge scheme as a badge of ‘honour’:
“This badge will be a badge of honour in a very real sense, allowing social care staff proudly and publicly to identify themselves, just like NHS staff do with that famous blue and white logo” .
What utter crap from this increasingly practiced purveyor of manure? One care worker was asked by the BBC if she intended buying one of Hancock’s ‘CARE’ badges and her comment was captured by a Trades Union Congress (TUC) worker and promoted on Twitter:
“A care worker was asked by @BBCNewsbeat earlier whether she will be buying one of the new CARE badges, she said
“No, they are being sold for £8.99 and my wage is only £8.75 an hour”
Says it all..”.
A care worker was asked by @BBCNewsbeat earlier whether she will be buying one of the new CARE badges, she said “No, they are being sold for £8.99 and my wage is only £8.75 an hour”
Says it all..
— Shelly Asquith (@ShellyAsquith) April 16, 2020
Bring Social Care Homes Into Public Ownership
That response epitomises the feelings of social care workers and anyone with half a brain cell across the UK. Wearing a badge of ‘honour’ will not pay for the weekly groceries, the rent, the mortgage, the petrol or the school uniform and trips for the kids. Social care workers need urgent wage increases now and the whole social care sector needs to become a state responsibility with proper regulation, training, and employment contracts. Social care must be nationalised so care homes concentrate on delivering the best and most appropriate care necessary not on filling the pockets of greedy, under regulated and sometimes shady bosses. A major study only two years ago exposed abuse of elderly residents:
“Abuse is taking place in 99 per cent of care homes across England, new research shows, prompting concerns elderly people are bearing the brunt of a “chronic” underfunding in the social care system … Dr Claudia Cooper, from UCL’s psychiatry department and the study’s lead author, meanwhile said the fact that abuse was most common in care homes that also had high rates of staff burnout suggested it was a consequence of staff being “under pressure and unable to provide the level of care they would like to offer” .
Social care is far too important a service to be left to the private sector. Elderly care must be about quality care and compassion delivered by motivated, trained and properly paid staff. Just as it is right and proper to demand wage increases for the wonderful nurses, porters and other NHS members who make up the NHS Team so it is imperative that social care work is taken into the public sector and social care workers are paid wages which reflect the importance of the job they perform. If the covid19 crisis has taught us anything it is that stockbrokers, bank bosses and hedge fund managers are obscenely overpaid and therefore overvalued while NHS and social care workers are underpaid and undervalued. That simply cannot be allowed to continue post covid19.
A Whole Forrest of Magic Money Trees are Available
To those who will question the cost of nationalising the social care home sector and paying frontline social care staff real living wages I say, firstly we pay for what is essential in society and elderly social care is essential. Secondly, we assess the contribution to our public funds from the millionaires and billionaires who often arrange their financial affairs to ensure they pay little or no taxes. Such tax evasion and avoidance by the rich and the big corporations costs the public purse billions of pounds every year, almost as much as £120 billion according to reputable research. It is urgent that we now re-arrange the tax affairs of these powerful parasites.
Thirdly, emergency times justify emergency measures. The UK is home to 54 billionaires. A covid19 emergency tax of a mere 5% levied on each billionaire would generate £2.7 billion. Enough to raise the pay of social care workers and bring the whole sector into public ownership. That minute levy on the billionaires would hardly be noticed and should become an annual levy alongside new and proper, progressive, and well enforced taxation.
Fourthly, imagine we could identify a £205 billion stream of money over the next thirty years that we could tap into to ensure the NHS, social care sector and other essential services are properly funded? We would not have to rely on 99-year-old pensioners walking around their gardens to generate necessary funds. We have such a money tree. Its called the Trident renewal fund and instead of wasting so much money on illegal, immoral and inhumane weapons of mass destruction we could deploy that £205 billion in hospitals, elderly care and schools instead of bombs.
By all means continue to clap for NHS and social care frontline workers but if you don’t support radical improvements to their pay and employment conditions your gesture is as empty and hypocritical as those Tory MPs and Ministers who clap on Thursday nights for the cameras but clapped far more meaningfully three years ago to keep the pay of nurses and social care workers as low as they are today. As the RF Report correctly states:
“The clapping is welcome, but care workers need better pay and conditions too. Achieving these goals – for example by ensuring the real Living Wage is paid across frontline care – will require both political resolve and the requisite funding, given we’re talking about a largely publicly funded sector that has been through years of austerity. Better pay and conditions in care should have long been a priority given the vital role care workers play in protecting the vulnerable. Delivering these things now is the least we can do”.