Social care funding equivalent to 176,000 places for over-65s is about to be cut. In what world is this the right response to Covid?

by Joanne Harding

Being appointed Executive Member for Adult Social Care at Trafford Council was one of the proudest achievements of my life. However, it is more than a role: it is personal.

In March 2019 I submitted a motion to Council, asking Trafford to adopt in full the recommendations of the Unison Ethical Care Charter.

As I delivered my speech, I held a photograph of my gran, Annie.

Annie was political, tiny and formidable, and I loved her.

She was an important influence on my life, and I wouldn’t be the woman I am now without having her advice and guidance.

I watched as she was ravaged by dementia: there was confusion; inability to recognise any of us; wandering and putting herself at risk, not able to feed and clothe herself; and needing assistance with the most personal of care.

I saw carers come and go, different ones trying to coax her to eat and drink.

I watched as they watched the clock. Knowing they had limited time to care for her, before they had to head off to the next person needing their support.

I watched as she sat motionless and lifeless, slumped in a chair, as she eventually had to be moved to nursing care.

The woman I knew as fiercely independent was now totally dependent on others to look after her. I remember feeling horrified and terrified in equal measures, every time I went to visit her at the care home that was just too poorly equipped to really care for my lovely gran.

Fast forward to 2020 and here we are in the middle of a global pandemic, with care homes on everyone’s lips.

Little has changed. The social care sector has had years of significant underinvestment: people living longer, with more complex conditions, has led to a growing demand for care and ever-rising costs.

Local authorities are facing a £10 billion black hole due to coronavirus. This will mean a £3.5 billion cut to social care, the equivalent of 176,000 long term adult social care places for over-65s and 23,000 short-term places.

In total, 35,928 places would go in the North West alone.

Stark figures indeed, and behind all of those figures is a person. Not just numbers on a spreadsheet.

The impact of austerity on social care has been devastating.

Providers have struggled to maintain services: in fact, some just withdraw from the market, leaving people vulnerable and uncertain.

Staff feeling overwhelmed and undervalued.

People waiting longer to access services with varying degrees of quality.

This has to change. It wasn’t good enough for Annie back then, and it isn’t good enough now.

At long last we are now, as a result of this crisis, recognising the contribution that social care staff make in supporting people to live their best lives.

We cannot go back.

Frank Dobson said in 1997: arrangements for long term care of older people were so unsatisfactory that “they cannot be allowed to go on for much longer“. But guess what?

There are three areas that I feel Labour must now focus on, as we look to create our future vision for social care:

One. Fix under-funding. The discussion around funding will not be an easy one. It will throw up a whole set of “death tax” “dementia tax” hand wringing, however, have that conversation we must. I am pleased that the Health and Social Care Select Committee have resurrected plans to consider evidence around social care reform. We must push for the kicked into the long grass Green Paper and tackle this issue that successive governments have failed to do.

Two. Address the workforce challenge. A Unison survey of staff found that work schedules are unrealistic with ‘call cramming’ the norm. Inconsistent wages and poor terms and conditions equates to high staff turnover. The person in need of the care then has to deal with a succession of different carers to provide personal care. We must build a workforce that feels valued and invested in.

Three: Effective integration of health and social care. What does genuine integration look like? It doesn’t mean that social care needs to be subsumed into the clunky bureaucracy of the NHS. Not everyone who requires social care has a health need. Local government, the community and voluntary sector know what is needed at a community level. Here in Trafford I have been part of the excellent first response in establishing community hubs. We must build on this model.

To integrate does not mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Let us also talk about people, and not systems. Care homes are being referred to now as some kind of entity: “over there”. These are people’s homes. Not just a business model.

I am delighted with the appointment of Liz Kendall as Shadow Minister for Social Care. In Liz, I see a tenacious determination to hold this government to account. I know that right now, working together with local councils on the ground, she has a real opportunity to map out a whole new deal for social care, and avoid us slipping back into bad habits.

So, I ask Liz and the Labour leadership to involve councillors and communities in how we address the three points I raise.

Let’s be bold in building our Labour vision for social care.

The people we care about who use these services, among them some of society’s most vulnerable, surely deserve better.

Jo Harding Executive Member for Adult Social Care at Trafford Council

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5 Responses to “Social care funding equivalent to 176,000 places for over-65s is about to be cut. In what world is this the right response to Covid?”

  1. John P Reid says:

    The government spent as much in one month April 2020 as rhe while of 2019′ May will be worse, this excludes public sector training has been put on hold, even if we go back half to normal in June, that’s 30 years of current spending(Pre march) the tories have spbeen not like labour would never dream of, even with the it’s time for a change narrative, which won’t happen this side of 2029
    Labour is finished there’s no need for it, unless it’s can be more efficient at spending or having Ida’s on how charirities and co-ops help fund the state
    The tories are 6% ahead in the polls with the Cummings crisis, I know people in areas where they use to weight the lsbour vote where the tories have 5 figure majorities
    Th council elections in the next 2 years out of the cities may shock the party into realizing its a city only party,

  2. Alf says:

    I wish Keir would start taking on the Tories instead of praising them. He just seems so Tory-lite. It’s like we’re just going back to the bad old days of New Labour.

  3. Anne says:

    A very insightful article. Greater Manchester is ahead of the game in many social initiatives – such as action for rough sleepers. I agree Liz Kendal is a good appointment for shadow minister for social care. I also agree that it is not a simple matter to lump social care with the NHS. The demands on the NHS has increased over the years due to increase in age of patients, many with complex medical needs. Social care does cover a large group of residential homes – some managed by local authorities, some private, some religious groups, some are managed by charities such as the Abbeyfield homes. Social care in peoples homes is also a patchwork of provision. This is a complex issue and will not be easily sorted out, but the rampant Covoid situation has highlighted the different standards of care. Training is another important aspect of this sector as is monitoring of the care given. All this comes at considerable cost.

  4. Touchstone says:

    @Alf what exactly are you smoking, or has the Momentum kool-ade not worn off yet? Starmer has been taking Johnson apart (ever so politely) in the House. Just cos he’s not quoting Lenin while he’s doing it…It’s generally regarded as bad form to attack the government during a national emergency so he’s got to pull his punches a bit, but the Tories are doing a fine job of tearing themselves apart at the moment. Never interrupt your enemy while he’s making a mistake.

  5. John P reid says:

    labour feeling we could ignore the concerns of working class voters because they were assumed to be cult followers of the Labour religion it was a moral crusade. when obsessing with middle class votes did anyone call out Peter Mandlsons quote the Working class “had nowhere else to go” became a uncritical statement to New labour just dismissing it as theer were election victories. What Labour was failing to see, was the Working class became atheists. towards political loyalty.

    if we can reconcile ourselves with the scale of the 2019 historically the worse defeat than anything since 1931, we have to diagnose the failures to discipline ourselves to convincing ourselves the working class would tolerate remain on a 2nd referendum as the working class wouldn’t dare vote tory and that it was giving the young middle class London liberals something to canvass for and stopping the tories up North would be something for the Working class to be canvassing for, So now to rebuild the Party, we’ll have to look at the 35% strategy of 2015 thinking we’d get libdem votes and in 2019 we thought the 2nd referendum for remain would get ex libdem votes as it’s the only way to stop Brexit is to vote labour as the Libdems wouldn’t win anywhere, and A concession the idea that we could have renegotiated a better deal and voted Against it and had another referendum within 5 months was so embarrassing, to say it was A quick fix, as for the rebranding as labour as progressive patriotic ,yet it’s still full of those who were sneering at Dominic cummings or still saying that the working class are thick for not voting for us ,Like Dawn butler just said, we have to appeal to the country as Patriotic by saying it was wrong for our 2019 manifesto to say we were trying to have another vote to over turn the referendum result.

    recognising this has already in areas That accept we were wrong , this has begun, in fairness there are wings who’ve realised this Labour future English labour network and Blue Labour tried to say that labour was losing the working class vote and was ingored, as it became a culture battle and war, that Blue Labour is now obsessed with the grooming gang report the EHRC report and the transgender self id seeing rapists saying they’re women in female only safe spaces. And the culture was has turned into combating the idea that economic socialism Is important and that culturally its more important as we’re interested in beating the conservatives over liberal issues as there’s mythically enough middle class liberals who can lead labour to victory, so The power struggle has come to define Labour’s future, is it MIDDLE CLASS young liberal party or a working class traditional party

    Labour has got to get away from this victim identity politics ,as David Blunkett when Home secretary said in 2003 I think the slogan created a year or two ago about institutional racism missed the point. “It’s not the structures created in the past, it’s the processes to change structures in the future and it’s individuals at all levels who do that.
    “That’s why I was so worried about people talking about institutional racism because it isn’t institutions, it’s patterns of work and processes that have grown up.” adding: “It’s people that make the difference”

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