There are times when words fail miserably.
The social care sector has been in a state of crisis for so long that the words have completely lost all meaning.
After bracing swingeing spending cuts, Britain’s social care industry was perhaps the most devalued and misunderstood welfare service.
Some felt the nadir was four years ago when the chair of the National Care Association said, “We are now beyond the crisis point. We really are at the edge of the cliff.”
Some would argue that in those four years the sector plummeted off the cliff edge. The reality of a pandemic hitting our care system has pushed the crisis far, far out to sea.
Its very existence is under threat. And when words fail miserably – the keywords I find in this Covid landscape…who will save our social care system?
Coronavirus has laid bare the fragility of one of our most important services. Stories emerging from the ‘forgotten frontline’ have finally shocked our leaders into paying attention after years of neglect.
Thousands of residents and many frontline health and social care workers have died during the pandemic and staff continue to take their lives in their own hands by having to work without adequate PPE and testing.
As care home death figures continue to rise, politicians have rushed out announcements to throw social care a lifeline. There’s been action plans, emergency funding, badges to give workers the same sort of recognition as NHS staff and demands to end low pay.
But piecemeal reforms are ultimately no substitute for a well-funded social care system – and there is surely going to be a growing clamour for a cross-party consensus on establishing a new picture of social care beyond the pandemic. Surely?
With research from the Resolution Foundation showing that 61% of frontline care workers in England are not paid enough to live on, it’s clear this funding landscape will require transformational change not tinkering in the margins. Social care supports communities, is life-sustaining and the bedrock of any civilised society and should be recognised thus surely!
Landmark change will need to be driven by an increased appreciation of the value of the social care profession – a new generation of heroes born out of the Covid-19 crisis.
But they were always there pre-pandemic – they are now becoming rightly recognised during the crisis for the amazing work they do. Social care is becoming rightly recognised in this landscape as the most meaningful not menial work and the value of care services are being viewed afresh.
While organisations from Deloitte to the World Economic Forum acknowledge that empathy is an essential skill needed to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution, carers, the people who demonstrate this quality most, are hopefully set to see the benefits of this changing world.
What will I clap for on Thursdays? Government funding to repair a care system already broken and lost at sea. Government funding to create a 21st Century service fit for purpose to Save our Social Care.
So that’s what I’ll clap for on Thursdays at the same time as celebrating amazing care workers like Kia and the story of Ken’s cushion and NHS fundraising superhero Captain Tom Moore – stories that have moved me to tears in these unprecedented times.
Simple acts of kindness, care and determination that mean the world.
Lest we forget.
About the author
Diana MacCarthy is an adult social care communications specialist, working across senior care and specialised supported housing. Her breadth of knowledge and experience in the social care industry is driven by her passion for supporting positive change in the sector.
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