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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Social care catastrophe

Hft, a charity providing assisted living to learning-disabled adults, has released its annual Sector Pulse Report, which paints a dire picture of the social care service sector. Founded in 1962, the charity supports over 2,500 people across England and Wales, from Morpeth in the north to Cornwall.

Their survey shows that a third of the 77 care providers surveyed had shed staff, almost half closed some parts of their organisation or dumped contracts, and another 52 per cent said that they expected to do so in the future. Billy Davis, Public Affairs and Policy Manager for Hft, said: “As our Sector Pulse Report shows, the sad reality is that the social care sector has run out of options. While in the previous report providers were focusing on streamlining through internal efficiency savings, we can now clearly see that cuts are affecting people, not just processes.”

Josie Dent, Senior Economist at the Centre for Economic and Business Research, which produced the report, said: “Pressure on social care providers to cut costs while also paying for increasing wage bills and agency worker fees has ultimately culminated in organisations taking drastic measures. The share of providers now offering care to fewer individuals doubled compared to last year’s survey.

“Meanwhile, the proportion having to make internal efficiency savings, close parts of the organisation or hand back services to local authorities remained high. The sector desperately needs more funding in order to provide the same level of care and support to the people who need it.” That needs to mean something more than simply handing over more money to multinational companies who often run such establishments. Most of that money often ends up with the directors of companies based in the Bahamas.

In response to the report, GMB national officer Kelly Andrew said: “This report should come as no surprise to anyone who is involved within the sector. We are at the point of a catastrophic failure in social care unless this government acts now,” before asking: “How many reports are needed for this government to recognise that years of underfunding cannot be fixed with a sticking plaster and false promises?”

Often when care homes for disabled and elderly close because of a bad report from the regulator, Care Quality Commission, they soon open again under a new owner closely related to the old one for financial reasons. Low wages mean that few people want to work in them unless from dire necessity, which all too often results in negligent or brutal treatment. Some local authorities are reluctant to close even badly run establishments for want of alternatives.

Lack of places all too often means that hospital remains the only alternative option, which is bad for patients cured but not able to stay at home and also for the NHS which has long waiting times.

North of the border things are not much better. Edinburgh alone is a facing a £36 million cut to its health and social care budget. Whilst the SNP government make much of integrating medical and social care, very slow progress is being made. The city’s Integration Joint Board (IJB), which provides health and social care services, is seven months behind in its plans to do what its name suggests.

Donald Macaskill, speaking for Scottish Care, said: “The choices being faced by the Edinburgh IJB are wholly unacceptable. They should not be in this position of having to deal with such critical underfunding.”

Age Scotland’s chief, Brian Sloan, declared that: “Social care in Scotland is under tremendous strain with stretched budgets, a lack of staff and an ageing population.

“There should be more investment in social care, not less. The Integrated Joint Board must realise that any cut to that budget would be a false economy and will have severe implications to front-line services.”

In Wales, the devolved government is considering tax increases that would be spent on abolishing care fees or on a pay rise for care workers. Speaking on Tuesday, Health Minister Vaughan Gething called for “honesty” and a “grown-up debate” on the question of dealing with an ageing population. That might sound a bit revolutionary to some but it is a start.