Unions have called for the formation of a national care system after a TUC report into social care found that adult social care spending in England is still £600m lower than in 2010.
The TUC report, called Fixing Social Care, found that in the majority of local authorities (112 out of 150) spending per head of the population is still below the levels of a decade ago.
For England as a whole, social care spending per head is 8% below that of 2010, with spending in London 18% lower.
The TUC report, which was published yesterday, sets out the reasons why the UK does not have a high-quality adult social care system and how it can be improved both for those who use it and those who work in it.
The report’s suggestions include:
- A new funding settlement for social care, which fully offsets the cuts seen in the previous decade and establishes future funding increases to meet rising demand
- Immediate funding provision to fill all current social care vacancies, unlocking 120,000 existing vacancies in a time of rising unemployment and increased demand
- Fair pay and working conditions for care workers, to make it an attractive career choice with a sector minimum wage of at least £10 per hour and an end to zero-hour contracts
- A new national Social Care Forum, bringing together government, unions, employers, commissioners and providers to better coordinate the delivery and development of services
- A reduced role for the private sector, so that all public funding is used to deliver high-quality services
Announcing the report’s publication, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “When the country needed them, social care workers stepped up. Care workers looked after older and disabled people in the midst of a pandemic, often without the right PPE, and often for low wages and no sick pay.
“Now it’s time to fix the broken system. Social care is badly underfunded. Pay and conditions for care workers are dreadful. And families can’t be sure of high-quality, affordable care when a family member needs it.”
Responding to the report’s findings Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The government, and society more generally, can no longer turn a blind eye to the enormity of the social care crisis in England.
“Unite strongly supports the TUC report and we would like to see a once-in-a-generation New Deal for social care that gives the elderly, vulnerable and disabled the fully-resourced support they need, and which also properly rewards and respects the contribution of social care staff.
“This crisis has been coming down the track for several decades, however, it was the pandemic that shone a very painful spotlight on the situation in care homes that politicians have ignored for too long.
“Throughout the pandemic, our members in social care have contacted us with heart-breaking experiences. Many have suffered in silence, fearful of speaking out against their private-sector employers.
“Many have put their lives at risk because they lacked the basic PPE. Testing of these key workers was inadequate and many did not have proper sick pay if and when they had to isolate.
“There can be no justification for continued underfunding and the rampant commercialisation of the sector – how can you factor in profit margins for someone’s health and care?
“Boris Johnson and his ministers need to act now and stop kicking this issue into the long grass – they should swiftly implement the TUC’s recommendations.”
UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea added: “Chronic underfunding of the care sector has been a huge problem for many years. It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic for politicians to realise this.
“This TUC analysis shows clearly how spending cuts are having a severe effect in many parts of the UK. That means lower quality services for the vulnerable and poverty wages for hard-working care staff.
“As the union of social care, UNISON is calling for a national service that’s fully funded, values staff and is free for those who need it.
“Successive governments have failed repeatedly to get a grip of reforming the sector. We need change now.”
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