The trade union Unison has called for the creation of a national care service to help tackle long-running problems in the sector.
In a new report published today – Care After Covid: A Vision for Social Care – the union argues that a national service could cope with the day-to-day challenges of caring for vulnerable people and be better prepared for a future health emergency of the same severity as the current pandemic.
In the future, the report says social care must become an important economic sector providing high-quality, well-paid jobs and no longer seen as a drain on the public purse.
The trade union says it also has the potential to be part of the solution for local economies that have lost jobs because of the pandemic.
In particular, it says care staff must be paid at least the real living wage – currently £10.75 in London, £9.30 an hour elsewhere – and there must be a new standard employment contract that includes sick pay, hours to be worked and payment for all the time they’re on duty.
The trade union claims many care workers are on zero-hours contracts, with little job security and without paid holidays or sick pay.
And staff working out in the community and moving between care appointments often aren’t paid for their travel time, while some providing overnight care are not paid for every hour of those shifts, despite being on call.
‘Social care is the forgotten frontline, but the time for talking is over,’ said Unison’s assistant general secretary, Christina McAnea.
‘For too long the care system has been weighted towards price and profit. Nothing less than a national care service will suffice.
‘Vulnerable people have been pushed from pillar to post as owners and care providers jostle for a bigger slice of the pie,’ she added.
‘Underpaid, undervalued and undermined staff are at breaking point. The Covid-19 crisis has further exposed just how desperately the care sector needs reform.
‘The NHS must be its inspiration. Any reform must build on the few positives to come from the pandemic – that care staff are highly skilled people, providing quality care, despite the many challenges they face.
‘Never again should there be vulnerable people dying in their thousands in care homes because of poor planning, ignorance, or the relentless pursuit of profits. The government must introduce fundamental reform to create a system fit for the future, providing care for everyone who needs it.’
Photo Credit – Geralt (Pixabay)