By Ailsa Colquhoun, Care Home Management
For almost two hours recently MPs sat down to debate an e-petition with over 120,000 signatures to discuss the recognition and reward of health and social care workers in light of COVID-19.
And at the end of it all, minister for care Helen Whately simply told MPs the same thing that her predecessors have been saying for the past few years: that “in the months ahead [the Government] will be looking at how we can build a long-term solution for social care, so that in the long term care workers get the rewards they deserve”.
Labour MP Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) who initiated the debate naturally expressed disappointment at the minister’s somewhat formulaic response. And, she’s likely not to be alone. After all the deaths and hardships that the care sector has seen over the past few months, does the sector not deserve a more specific pledge of reward and recognition? Let’s hope, as the debate, concludes, that this really is the beginning of a conversation on how we can arrive at that point.
Of course, there is no debate with a minister without the incumbent Government representative indulging in a moment of self-congratulation, and so we learn in the debate just how much the Government has done for social care during COVID-19: the adoption of the CARE brand, mental health and bereavement support, the care workforce app, funding of £3.8 billion for local authorities to pass on to care providers, and support for the care clappers. Now, there is even talk of medals and honours.
So, what now for the care sector as we learn to live with COVID-19?
There are a host of pressing, yet unanswered questions, relating to social care:
Will Government gratitude for the sector translate into more money, better contracts and a more equal relationship with the NHS?
Can care home managers look forward to improved financial support from their local authority and NHS commissioner partners?
Can care staff expect pay above the minimum wage or an immigration fast-pass once Brexit negotiations finally conclude?
Will the general public feel a new love and trust for the care home system that encourages them to send their relatives into care, and then to pay higher fees or more taxes to support the sector when they do?
Will the Government ever actually publish its Green Paper on adult social care, now more than three years overdue?
COVID-19 has certainly exposed how neglected our care system has become but pay is never easy for any Government to resolve, far less one that has been battered by the costs of a pandemic. And, if a second wave strikes – nationally or even just in areas – what’s left in the tank (literally, as well as emotionally) to fight the new offensive?
Medals and honours are all very well, and they give hope to all those involved in the battle. But they won’t win the war that the care sector still has to fight.
To read more about how care homes are rebuilding after COVID-19, please see Care Home Management’s latest issue, now online at https://chmonline.co.uk/back-issues-2-2/