Care Worker. Photo: PBC/CC
Care Worker. Photo: PBC/CC

Labour’s proposal for a National Care Service fails to address the real problems of private ownership that have worsened under the Tories. Glynn Doherty, a social care trade union organiser, explains why.

Adult social care is in such an appalling state that the facts and figures no longer shock us. 110,000 more people requested social care in 2021-22 than six years earlier. But only 11,000 more received it.

It’s a staggering statistic. But no longer headline news.

In that same year, 400,000 social care workers left their jobs, fed up with poverty wages and poor working conditions. In response, the Tory government cut £250 million from its budget that was meant to improve knowledge, skills, staff wellbeing and recruitment.


With the backdrop of this chaos, the Fabian Society has issued a report, commissioned by the trade union Unison and the Labour Party, ‘Support Guaranteed: The Roadmap to a National Care Service’.

Almost 80% of filled posts in adult social care are for employers independent of local authorities. Nearly three quarters of these are in the private, for-profit, sector.

The writers of the report admit that “investment firms and private equity funding… have flooded into the sector… with fears that sharp practices are undermining the quality of care as well as staff terms and conditions”.

Yet, they make no plans to change the mix of providers. Instead, they propose a “partnership” of national and local government with more than 10,000 mainly private providers.

Historically, trade union collective agreements in local authorities had won better pay, terms and conditions for workers. The writers say that just “some independent providers display unacceptable and exploitative behaviour with respect to… the treatment of their workers”.

But it is very much more than this. In reality, it is rife in the sector. Very few employers even match the better employment practices of local authorities.


Care should be a public service, and not organised for private profit. The writers suggest the market should be replaced by “networks of collaboration”. But don’t say what will happen when any, some, or all of the 10,000 private providers refuse to collaborate!

Social care workers will support the proposals for nationally negotiated pay and conditions, and improved training. But unless the issue of ownership is tackled, it will leave a situation where thousands of private providers protecting their profits will suppress fair wages.

The report is meant to be the blueprint for an incoming Labour government. But given Keir Starmer’s refusal to make any election pledge which will damage his standing with big business, care workers rightly expecting answers to their problems will be sadly disappointed.