By HCI editor Sarah Clarke
When Sajid Javid replaced Matt Hancock as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in June, I was cautiously optimistic for a more positive way forward for the sector.
I was encouraged by his words that “social care remains a priority” and his promised commitment to social care reform.
But when he made his speech at the Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday, all I felt was disappointment. Disappointment for the people receiving care, those who are going without the care they need and people who will need care in the future.
Health and social care “begins at home”, he said, adding that people should lean on their families for support first, before turning to the state.
What on earth does he think people are doing?
There are already 13.6 million people receiving informal care at home, compared to 550,000 people receiving state-funded home care and 225,000 people occupying state-funded care home beds, according to the Homecare Association, formerly the UKHCA.
And a Carers Week report published in June 2020 found an estimated 4.5 million additional people had taken on caring responsibilities during the pandemic. That meant a quarter of UK adults were providing unpaid care.
Informal carers are essentially propping up an underfunded social care system, and they are burning out as a result.
Research carried out by Carers UK in October 2020 revealed that 40% of family carers are providing more care because the needs of the person they look after have increased.
This increased pressure has left 74% of carers exhausted and worn out, with two thirds (64%) telling Carers UK that they hadn’t been able to take any breaks in the last six months.
Sajid Javid is the head of decision making for adult social care in England. Yet his comments on Tuesday screamed total ignorance, insensitivity and a lack of understanding.
Adding insult to injury, Javid said: “If you do need support, we live in a compassionate, developed country that can afford to help with that.”
Well, if only that was the case. There are currently 1.5 million older people going without the care they need, according to Age UK. And an ADASS survey revealed in September that 70,000 people are waiting for care assessments, up from 55,000 in June, when the organisation conducted its Spring Survey.
The reasons for this are plain for all to see – decades of underfunding and crippling workforce shortages caused by low pay, burn out, rising demand, mandatory vaccine regulations and a failure to recognise social care professionals as skilled workers.
What we need is a government that understands this, not one that deceives the public into thinking it has resolved the care crisis.