The Future Of Care

Posted: 15 July 2020

To secure a more prosperous and sustainable future the care sector needs to move away from being perceived as a manual labour/blue collar occupation and become a recognised and respected profession.

Vulnerable Customers

As a company we routinely work with the NHS, social services, local authorities and of course our customers and their families, and these stakeholders are all hard pressed. We know about the challenges in the healthcare sector, which have become more acute since the coronavirus pandemic, and similar problems exist within social services, the NHS and others. However, the person receiving the care (referred to as a ‘service user’ by the CQC) is real and has serious and often complex needs. They are very often vulnerable and have family members who are scared by the costs that they know will inevitably mount up.

Dangerous Times For Care

Care companies themselves are in a very dangerous place; caught between an expectation of high levels of service and the reality of rock-bottom rates (for most) where can they go? In our area the discrepancy between what the local authority will pay and the real cost of care is huge, so why do companies do it? The simple answer is, by and large, bulk contracts. Get a chunk of cash in and make your margins by squeezing the carers and the business costs – in other words by buying the cheapest of everything. Then take the money and use the tax system to maximise what can be made through financial manipulation. And there is the rub: care so often comes down to money and everything else is secondary. This must change.

More money for training is a good goal but without better rates of pay and good apprenticeship/training opportunities the youth intake will be a reservoir of less successful students who see it as a last resort. Despite reasonable pay and conditions, a pension, mileage allowance and block working (so travel time is paid) our recruitment problems are profound and restrict our ability to take on more customers. Carers are often regarded as little more than labourers by social workers, nurses and doctors, probably because they are providing personal services rather than being involved in life saving, health maintenance and end-of-life management. However, when the chips are down, we are intimately involved in quality of life, wellbeing and the comfort of palliative care. Very often we are there at the end, sometimes when no-one else is.

Valuing Carers AND Customers

So while the future of care is lies in better pay and conditions which will lead to better recruitment, we must value carers not only financially, but also through better training prospects and a proper career ladder that isn’t simply defined by NVQs.

As a society we need to support the sector more, through better information and a grown-up discussion nationally about the kind of care we want and not through the dog-whistle of politics. A recent government suggestion that we could have a National Care Service was met with hoots of derision in our office, not from a political standpoint but because it shows a complete lack of understanding of how social care works.

Helping The “Sandwich” Generation

Hard-pressed ‘sandwich’ families with children under 21 at one end and elderly parents at the other know the conundrum all too well. Add the distress of the elderly who want to pass something on to their kids (but have a charge on the house for what might still be marginal care) and families who want to maximise the inheritance by not paying for care, and you have a strange brew of competing interests pulling against each other with the subject being a vulnerable person or couple.

Education comes from our taxes, and a good education is the gift we give our children to set them up for the future. Care should be the same, but it is the gift that says, “Thanks for all you’ve done for us.” I think the future of care depends on acknowledging that.