'Care' Should Not Be a Dirty Word

01/02/2016 12:18 GMT | Updated 31/01/2017 10:12 GMT

For such a small, simple expression with huge connotations, "care" seems to have become a dirty word.

It makes people feel uneasy - embarrassed at the standard of care many of our elderly and vulnerable people receive, and embarrassed at the level of support for the carers themselves.

A report last week compiled by public services union Unison found that quite unacceptable 15-minute home visits are still taking place within England's care system.

The report was the result of a survey of councils and care workers and highlighted some "distressing" incidents of care being compromised.

Unison said that despite councils being told not to schedule 15-minute visits for personal care - such as help to wash, dress or eat - many local authorities were still doing just that.

Roughly three-quarters of staff who filled in the online survey said they simply did not have enough time to provide dignified care.

The Unison report said some carers felt "angry, ashamed and embarrassed" - there's that word again - at the level of support they were able to provide.

And in one particularly sobering comment, one of those surveyed wrote: "I had to visit a lady who is 102 years old for a shower, help her get dressed, make food, tidy her kitchen, give her medication and put her bins out [all] in 20 minutes. It's humiliating as we haven't got time for a chat."

Sadly, of course, none of this is new. Last year in our general election manifesto, Ukip noted that "there is a national crisis in elderly care".

We said that according to the charity Age UK, 900,000 older people between the ages of 65 and 89 have social care needs that are not met.

Residential care, nursing care, home care and day care had had their budgets cut, meaning one million hospital bed days were being lost every year because patients could not be discharged.

Our pledges included a plan to integrate health and social care by bringing both under the control of the NHS, and to increase social care funding in total by £5.2 billion between 2015 and 2020.

To pay for it, we said we would invest any tax profits from shale oil and gas exploration or "fracking" - if it could be properly researched, resourced, and ensured to be safe - into setting up a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Ukip also targeted the £2 billion the NHS loses to health tourism every year - people coming here to take advantage of our brilliant but under-strain health service - along with our net European Union contributions of £29 million every single day to instead help the very people who pay for it all; taxpayers.

We also promised to scrap those awful 15-minute care visit windows.

You see, the money is obviously there, albeit not in my eyes being targeted properly. The payees - taxpayers - should always come first.

But clearly there are no easy solutions.

The Government argues it is spending more money than ever on social care. Local councils argue back that this extra provision is dwarfed by the amount they're losing in central funding from Westminster.

And of course we have an ever-ageing population meaning the pressures on carers and the system that supports them will only become greater.

One thing that could be changed, though, would be for the wider community to start properly respecting the work that carers do, many of them for little or no pay.

"Care" should no longer be a dirty word. Eyes should light up at the mention of it rather than looking away, or down. Because it is an industry we should all aim to be enormously proud of and be able to say so, too.

The odds on any of us needing the care and support of others at some stage in our lives really are quite overwhelming.

So we should invest not just money but also our pride towards the people who do a job that the vast majority of people will one day find themselves relying upon.

Yes, care for the vulnerable is vital. But so is care for the carers.

We must work to find a way of making them feel properly appreciated and rewarded, and thus able to spend more time with the people they have offered up their own lives to support.

Louise Bours is MEP for the North West and Ukip health spokesman.