We expect a lot from home care workers.
Vulnerable people in need of support to continue living in their own homes rely heavily on them, having no choice but to trust them to help with the most personal and intimate of tasks. Families trust them to keep their loved ones safe and treat them with the upmost dignity, respect, and genuine care. Councils expect them to help people to remain in their own home for as long as possible, avoiding more expensive residential care, while the NHS relies on them to keep people out of hospital.
Published today, the report of the Commission I chaired on the homecare workforce with LGiU, Mears and expert commissioners from the sector paints a bleak picture. We wanted to tell the story warts and all -and make a compelling case for urgent change.
As publicly funded care continues to be squeezed, the danger is that the good providers are driven out and those providers that make a profit by exploiting their workers thrive. The price is paid by the frail and vulnerable in our community who too often get poor care, and by the care workers they rely on who get a very raw deal. The Commission heard time and time again that care workers are grossly undervalued. It is a low pay, low skill and low status job - it is not yet seen as a career. This has to change if we want more people to take on these roles.
Making care work a career of esteem, where a living wage is paid, staff are trained and recognised as valued key workers who contribute a huge amount to society will inevitably come at a price, but the cost of doing nothing will be even greater.
We should all welcome the extra £2 billion for health care services announced by the Government ahead of the Autumn Statement, but social care needs to get a slice too. Some of this new funding must be spent avoiding new crises.
The key to delivering great care is a great workforce and we need to get there urgently. There is already great care and there are thousands of dedicated staff doing fantastic work. There are providers that, against the odds, are delivering excellence and councils that have been smart and innovated their way out of crisis. But to ensure that care works for everybody, we need to challenge providers, local authorities and government to do much more to guarantee great care for everyone who needs it. We need urgent action, before it's too late.