8 October 2021:
This has been a worrying week. The social care system is stretched to breaking point. Whilst still dealing with the crisis of COVID-19, a staffing crisis has taking hold, piling more strain onto services already worn thin. Of course, the staffing shortage in care is not new. Now, the impact of the pandemic, combined with other factors, has brought it to a head.
A crisis behind closed doors
Unlike the fuel crisis which we are all feeling directly at the pumps, the crisis in social care is happening behind closed doors. Our helpline is supporting families wracked with worry about the impact. Over the past couple of weeks we have heard from people facing long delays in getting the care they need, facing eviction from residential care due to capacity to meet needs, support being reduced to the basics, and totally unacceptable levels of cleanliness.
“Care begins at home”
We urgently need a plan from the Government on dealing with this crisis. Instead, this week the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care insulted carers across the country by telling them “care begins at home”, implying families should be doing more. We know from our helpline that families will often struggle on for as long as possible before seeking help. The lack of provision and support is often a shock. Relatives and friends of those needing care often tell us the guilt they feel about seeking support can be overwhelming.
Throughout the pandemic we heard from people actively avoiding care settings, due to the restrictive rules around ‘visiting’ (still in place 19 months later, despite restrictions being lifted for the rest of the country). Rather than shifting the burden onto already stretched families, the focus should have been on an urgent plan from Government to ensure people in vulnerable situations can live safely and with dignity.
“Get social care done”
Amidst the chaos, came a pledge from the Prime Minister to “get social care done”. With the system in crisis, families still separated and staff burnt out, we need urgent action not just an empty slogan. If getting it ‘done’ means the plans he announced last month, we are in for bitter disappointment.
Attack on human rights
As if this wasn’t enough, the Justice Secretary vowed this week to “overhaul” the Human Rights Act. The law granting us legal rights and the ability to hold those in power to account when they cross the line. The law so crucial to older people needing care, placed in vulnerable situations. It is no surprise that the Justice Secretary doesn’t like the Human Rights Act; it is for us, giving us the power to hold the Government to account.