Whether as a worker, a service user or as a relative of someone who is, almost everyone has a story to tell about social care.
I’m no different. I’ve had family members who’ve been looked after by care workers and my overriding impression was that they were more than just employees; they were public servants who temporarily became part of the family.
At a Labour Party gathering, I met one of these people. She had joined the Party because her job had been outsourced and her pay and conditions cut. She had only 15 minutes with each patient and she knew the quality of care was declining as a result. She wanted to change things.
And they desperately need changing. Social care is in crisis. This was again confirmed today with the publication of a new report by Independent Age. The number of care homes in the UK currently rated as either ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement’ stands at approximately 21 per cent. While this is a decrease on last year, the figure is still shocking.
More worryingly from my perspective, the figure for Yorkshire and the Humber is higher still, at 26.1 per cent, the second worst of any region in the UK. Yet Independent Age also highlight how Wakefield is among the worst performers in the country, with 38.9% of local care homes rated as ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement.’
This is deeply worrying, and a further illustration how we in Yorkshire, and the North, often suffer most when it comes to failing public services.
We of course know who is to blame here: this Conservative government and the Coalition Government that preceded them. During the later’s term In government Local Authority funding for social care services fell by nearly one-third, analysis by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has found. This was, in case we forget, accompanied in the same period by hand-outs to the rich in the form of an unprecedented cut to corporation tax from 28 per cent to 20 per cent, a figure that is the joint lowest in the G20.
The current Government has continued this defunding, with dramatic consequences. In Wakefield, in addition to the savings needed as a result of the cuts in government funding, £11.5m will need to be found in the latest budget to deal with demand pressures for children and adults social care services. Our councillors are trying their best to do this in the fairest way possible, but their hands have been firmly tied by a Government entirely out of touch with the reality of everyday life.
For those that work in social care their reality is extremely difficult. Social care companies are notorious for paying low wages and fighting to prevent their staff organising to improve their pay and conditions. As a result the quality of care has declined dramatically. Reversing this requires a well-paid and well-respected workforce, as well as a boost to funding.
As it stands, a combination of Tory cuts and unscrupulous employment practices by care homes-most of which are private providers motivated less by a public service ethos than by private profit-are crippling our care services and endangering people’s lives. It cannot continue.
This is yet another reason why we need a Labour Government. We are the only party thinking big enough to meet this monumental challenge head on. In our first term, Labour will lay the foundations of a National Care Service for England. Our first task will be to address the immediate funding crisis. We will increase the social care budgets by a further £8 billion over the lifetime of the next Parliament. We have many more policies on social care and they are bold yet achievable. We just need your support in making them a reality.