Let’s recognise care as a social good

November 23, 2021

The campaign for a National Care Service in Scotland: a contribution to a discussion. By HILARY HORROCKS (Edinburgh trades union council delegate)

Health is a devolved matter in the not-so-United Kingdom, and that has allowed successive Scottish governments to bring in progressive measures that are missing in England, such as abolition of prescription charges for everyone and free personal care for the elderly.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) government certainly sought to distance itself from Westminster during the first stages of the Covid pandemic, when it seemed to follow scientific advice more carefully, and kept the public better informed with daily briefings by the First Minister.

Care workers joined a lobby of Edinburgh Council in September against the closure of four care homes in the city. Photo by Craig Maclean

Between the first and second waves of Covid last year the virus was just about eliminated in Scotland – but like Westminster, the government at Holyrood failed to use the summer to bring in mitigating measures to reduce infection. So in the autumn, the return of schools and universities, coupled with the loosening of restrictions, led to a rise in cases similar to England’s.

Mask wearing has remained a legal requirement in Scotland, including for all secondary school pupils, and is generally well observed – but cases remain worryingly high, particularly in poorer areas.

Here, as in England and Wales, the terrible toll of deaths in care homes at the beginning of the pandemic brutally exposed the disastrous policy of freeing up NHS beds by transferring elderly hospital patients to care homes with no proper testing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Social care is up against the profiteers

November 23, 2021

By STUART CARTER (mental health worker and long-time union activist)

Three quarters of us will need some form of social care during our lifetime. In September the government claimed they were tackling the crisis in social care, by increasing National Insurance contributions by 1.25 % from 1 April 2022, thereby raising an extra £12 billion a year. They also made some changes to the thresholds for receiving free social care or having to make contributions to your social care.

Governments have been talking about social care reform for the past 20 years but have done next to nothing. The Dilnot report, commissioned by the coalition government in 2011, made some proposals similar to the present ones but more generous and far-reaching – but it was quietly ignored.

Successive governments have buried their heads in the sand.

Meanwhile cutbacks, especially in local authority budgets, have seen spending per person on social care drop 7.5% in real terms in the decade up to 2019/20. Progressive privatisation, that began in the 1970s, has resulted in 90% of social care now being delivered by the private and independent sector.

Increasingly, healthcare is viewed as a commodity to be bought and sold on the market, that is controlled by private companies seeking profit.

The graph shows the number of deaths of care home residents in England and Wales, each week between 14 March 2020 and 2 April 2021. The dark blue columns are deaths from Covid-19, the light blue, deaths from all other causes. The Office for National Statistics published the graph, and commented: “The sharpest rise in Covid-19 deaths occurred in wave one, but overall a higher proportion of deaths involved Covid-19 in wave two.” Please see the ONS web site for more details

Council-run care homes and council employed home helps are things of the past. However the COVID pandemic, which has killed 40,000 nursing and care home residents, has focused public attention on the state of social care.

Social care workers

One and a half million people work in the social care sector providing residential or home care. The average wage is £9.50 an hour and the majority of workers are on the minimum wage. There is no standardisation of training, terms and conditions are poor and there is a very low level of union organisation.

There is a great deal of instability, with many care homes going bust each year or being taken over by bigger companies. In home care, the workers are given limits on time they can spend with each client and many don’t get paid for their travel time between visits.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: