There has to be a “seismic shift” in the way society values social care in order to fix a “broken” system, Bluebird Care managing director Yvonne Hignell has warned.
Speaking to Home Care Insight, Hignell said that social care has historically been categorised as low-skilled, manual work, predominantly carried out by women, and until that mindset changes, sector reform can’t happen.
“The NHS emerged 70 years ago and it was a wonderful thing, but it was very much about maintaining the nation’s physical health. In terms of our social wellbeing, we had national insurance and the idea was if you fell on hard times you could tap into your welfare benefits, but don’t worry, your mum or daughter would look after you. But the world has moved on, women are now working and that availability of informal care isn’t as prevalent as it once was, and so the structures around social care haven’t kept up with those changes,” she said.
“We are now, in a very immature market, trying to professionalise care, but that’s adversely compounded by how the government categorises care – as low skilled, manual work. Yet, if all paid-for carers left their jobs tomorrow, all those people who are contributing to the economy and paying their taxes suddenly won’t be able to do that and they’d be the ones caring for their family members. There are already 7 million unpaid carers in the UK.”
Hignell explained that if society thought of social care as crucial to the future success of the economy, it would be valued as such.
“We don’t see how it fits into the rest of what goes on in the UK and until that mind shift happens, it’s very difficult to charge more for private pay or convince local authorities to pay more. The views around social care and the value it has in society aren’t explored deeply enough, in my opinion, and until we do, it’s very difficult to move things forward,” she added.
The managing director also warned that the government can’t continue to make small, experimental changes in order to repair a broken system.
“At some point we’ve all got to face up to the issue that the current system is broken, it’s unsustainable and something fundamental has to change, or we will just keep treading water and people will die as a result.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people waiting for social care that can’t get access to it and someone needs to come in and say ‘Stop. This cannot continue’. Putting in a care cap and allowing for tax breaks are just tinkering around the edges. We need a seismic shift.”