Blog: Time for government to start caring about social care

Panorama documentary aired on 29 May featuring Somerset County Council’s Adult Social Care team

After years of relentless cuts, council budgets are stripped to the bone. This is starkly illustrated by the perilous state of social care.

UNISON South West regional secretary Joanne Kaye writes ahead of the Panorama programme “Crisis in Care” which aired on 29 May 2019.

UNISON has been warning for a number of years that Adult Social Care is in crisis. Central government funding cuts handed down to local councils has led to the rationing of social care, impacting on some of our most vulnerable citizens.

It’s simply reckless of the government to expect councils to look after all elderly and vulnerable people on their patch while funding disappears.

It’s often low-paid care workers picking up the pieces. Spending their own money so an elderly person can have tea, working many extra hours to provide the care needed or being the only friendly face a lonely person may chat to all week.

A civilised society cares for the vulnerable and those with special needs, looks after the elderly after their lifetime of contribution to others and does so in a way which puts the needs and dignity of these people first. A civilised society values the skills of caring for others and sees these skills as complex, demanding and worthy of decent pay and conditions. Sadly we seem to have a long way to go before we can call ourselves truly civilised.

There is also a recruitment crisis in Home Care, with the majority of service provision now being run by private companies who, in some cases, pay their staff less than the national minimum wage as they fail to recognise travel time. Here in the South West the Learning Disabilities service in Somerset was recently outsourced, leading to the loss of many experienced staff.

BBC Panorama will air the first of two documentaries on Adult Social Care, filmed over a year in Somerset County Council tonight. (9pm, BBC One)

I urge all of our members to watch the programme to gain an understanding of what our members who work in Adult Social Care in Somerset face on a daily basis, and to better appreciate the national crisis facing these services.

This is an important issue that UNISON will continue to campaign on – both for the benefit of our members in the service in Somerset, but also to ensure that communities across the South West have access to high-quality public services that are fit for purpose.

Watch: BBC Panorama: Crisis in Care (Part 1) – BBC iPlayer