Britain's biggest pensioner organisation, a leading trade union representing care workers and a major charity tackling elder abuse, have joined forces to respond to the government's green paper consultation on the future of care.
The National Pensioners Convention (NPC), GMB and Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) have identified three key concerns surrounding the government's care proposals, which they say could jeopardise the safety of older people and damage the quality of the services they receive.
Their joint response to the green paper calls for:
1. A new National Care Service to be funded through general taxation rather than the use of one-off lump sum payments, private insurance or through the use of existing care or disability benefits.
The organisations believe that the proposed National Care Service can only be properly financed through a universal tax-funded system, and the government’s instant dismissal of this option is not evidence based, but politically driven. There is wider support for this amongst the public and other stakeholders than the government seems prepared to acknowledge.
2. A new National Care Service to be properly regulated with regard to registration, standards, monitoring and inspection of care providers and those employed in the care sector.
There should be new requirements for the registration of care providers so that 50% of staff in care homes and all new staff working in domiciliary care would be suitably qualified. The General Social Care Council should also be responsible for registering, inspecting and regulating paid care workers.
3. The use of individual budgets for older people to be reconsidered as they raise serious concerns about personal safety, the quality of care and unacceptable responsibility that will be placed on many vulnerable users.
Individual budgets purport to give individuals choice and control over their care, but for many older people they will be an unacceptable burden. Individual budgets also raise serious concerns about the safety and protection of vulnerable individuals who will be responsible for employing their own care workers, who at present are exempt from registration, regulation and inspection.
Dot Gibson of NPC says, “Care in the UK is in crisis. For years it has been the Cinderella service of the welfare state, under funded and overlooked, and this long awaited green paper has clearly missed the opportunity to put this right. Suggestions that people should pay lump sums or take out private health insurance just won’t tackle the inequalities in the system. Older people and their families have a right to ask: why when education, the NHS and many other public services can be funded by society as a whole, should the care of our most vulnerable pensioners be left to individuals? For generations that have already contributed to our society, the fairest and most effective way of providing good quality care to everyone is through a tax-funded option, and it is disgraceful that the government has ruled this out of the consultation before we’ve even had a debate.”
Sharon Holder of GMB says, “The workforce, which accounts for 80% of all social care expenditure in the UK, is low paid, nearly half work part-time, is supplemented by migrant and agency workers and is predominated by female staff. There is no longer a requirement that 50% of staff employed in care homes will be qualified to NVQ 2 level, and, as a consequence, the quality of care provision across the sector is suffering. The failure of the government in the green paper to devote any significant attention to workforce issues simply underpins the lack of any real commitment to delivering the high quality and innovative services users want and the government desires. If the future of care and support in England is to truly improve, then, more needs to be done to regulate standards, monitor provisions and improve the conditions of the workforce."
Gary Fitzgerald of Action on Elder Abuse says; “The funding and delivery of social care support has a major impact upon the quality of life for many older people, and the constant re-writing of eligibility criteria to exclude them from access to anything other than critical support has resulted in an increase in neglect within our communities. The transfer of social care from regulated, managed and supervised services to the unregulated provision of 'cash for care' is dangerous. It goes against all that the government knows about elder abuse and it unnecessarily increases risk without any safeguards being put in place. Older people do not want to become employers and managers in their old age; they want quality care that is flexible and safe, and it is about time the government listened to their voices."