14 years of the Tories – social care

UNISON head of social care Gavin Edwards describes how the Conservatives have brought social care to its knees

Social care is a vital public service. At its best, it enables people who need support to live the life they want to live.

But social care has been well and truly broken by 14 years of Conservative government. Many people cannot access the care they need and councils who commission care have been left without support or direction. Be it Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss or Sunak, the Tories have passed the buck at every opportunity. The system remains starved of resources and too focussed on profit, instead of delivery.

Attempts have been made in Scotland and Wales to address systemic failures, but a broken social care sector remains a problem across the whole of the UK.

The problems in social care are most obvious in the workforce, where there has been a “race to the bottom” on terms and conditions of work. Many care workers are often paid minimum wage or less for a difficult and skilled job. Some domiciliary care staff do not get paid for their travel time between care visits, while care workers are paid significantly less than the minimum wage for overnight sleep-in shifts.

Most care workers do not even have access to an adequate occupational sick pay scheme, which means they lose significant sums in wages when they’re unwell or need to self-isolate. During the pandemic, this led to many care workers being pressured to work, with devastating consequences.

Meanwhile, our country has been shamed by the exploitation of many migrant care staff, who are forced to work excessive hours or pay huge amounts for their training or equipment.

So, it’s hardly surprising that figures from Skills for Care show there are 152,000 vacancies in the care sector in England, one of the highest rates in the entire economy.  A cross-party House of Commons committee recently concluded that the government had brought social care to its knees.

Social care is important in its own right, not least to the older and disabled people who rely on it. But the broken care system is also damaging the NHS: 2022 figures showed that up to one in three English hospital beds were occupied by patients fit for discharge.

The only way to change this is to vote for it.

UNISON wants to see a fair pay agreement for social care to get care workers a well-deserved pay boost. And we want a government which will build a National Care Service, setting national standards for care and stops the buck-passing.

Only by getting a government that takes responsibility for social care will we ever see the change we need.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *