THE BLOG

Why Is Caring for Children Seen as More Important Than Caring for Older People?

20/11/2015 11:43 GMT | Updated 20/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Caring for the young and the old are two of the most important and rewarding jobs in society.

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Yet for years both the childcare sector and the care sector have been notoriously underpaid and undervalued.

However recently it seems as if the childcare sector has succeeded in changing the way it is perceived and is now viewed as a highly credible workforce that plays an essential and crucial role in the development of young children.

Early years practitioners can now become Early Years Teachers which is a huge development, although they still don't have that all important Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) putting them on a par with primary and secondary school teachers.

Of course in terms of pay, things don't change overnight as shown by a recent report by the union Voice which revealed that only a fifth of nursery workers are paid over £20,000.

But still their status has risen and they are now seen as playing an important part in helping to form a child's emotional, social and developmental skills. The weight now given to childcare is evident from the fact that it became a political football in the General Election with the 30 hour free childcare pledge being a flagship policy for the Conservatives.

It was a very different story for the care sector during the General Election with the NHS taking most of the limelight and the Care Cap, which was designed to reduce costs paid by people for their care, being quietly shelved after the election until 2020.

So why isn't the end of a person's life given the same gravitas and importance? We will all reach the end of our lives one day and with dementia on the rise, many of us are likely to have the condition. So why is there this apathy when it comes to the care sector?

Some care homes are blazing a trail in terms of dementia training and the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling University is doing its best to spread good practice.

However sadly, as shown by recent research by Community Care and Unison, many care homes and even specialist dementia homes are failing to provide their staff with proper dementia training as well as essential guidance on safeguarding and the Mental Capacity Act.

Their findings showed that over a quarter of care homes rated Requires Improvement or Inadequate were judged by the Care Quality Commission to be lacking when it came to dementia training.

Caring for older and vulnerable people with complex needs should be seen for what it is - a demanding and skilled job. Yet still we are paying these people low wages and not giving them proper training. Education and money lifts people's statuses. From next April, all employers will be required to pay the National Living Wage. This will hopefully make a difference although without some help from the Government in terms of funding, care home providers will struggle to pay this.

A new report out from Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre - UK (ILC-UK) claims the social care sector could face a shortfall of 200,000 care workers by the end of this Parliament.

The care sector needs to work on shifting people's perceptions about its workforce in the way the childcare sector has done and is continuing to do!

We need to attract more people in the UK to become care workers and to do this we need to stop being a youth-obsessed society and start seeing older people as real human beings and value their wisdom and life experience. By valuing older people more, we will value the people who care for them and vice versa - the two are entwined.