South Gloucestershire Unison strike. Photo: Roger Thomas
South Gloucestershire Unison strike. Photo: Roger Thomas

Dave Gorton, Communications officer National Shop Stewards Network

Like June’s Fabian Society report ‘Support Guaranteed: The Roadmap to a National Care Service’, commissioned by the Labour Party and trade union Unison (see ‘Labour says social care will stay privatised’), the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) report ‘A strategy for the care workforce’ identifies the horrendous state of social care in England. That it also covers childcare services will be welcomed by many children’s workers who often feel left out of the discussion.

The report highlights:

  • Over half a million hours of domiciliary care undelivered in spring 2023 due to lack of staff
  • 40% of councils in England saw a spike in nursery closures in 2022, with 88% expecting more in 2023, citing workforce shortages as a key factor
  • 28% of children with a social care worker parent are growing up in poverty
  • In childcare, private providers account for 65% of all group-based providers and nearly a quarter of all provision
  • Private providers deliver the majority of social care services, including 87% of care home beds for older people

The significant increase in the role of private equity in care has led to “profit extraction” and reductions in staff pay and conditions

Care must be a public service, and not organised for private profit. These figures demonstrate how far removed we currently are from that – once a bedrock of the labour and trade union movement.

TUC prescription

But having diagnosed the patient is suffering from the equivalent of a broken spine, the TUC recommends a sticking plaster to treat it!

The report calls on the government to “Support local authorities to move towards public provision of social care and childcare wherever possible” (my emphases). The TUC calls for ‘National Partnership Forums’ in social care and childcare.

But how will these be enforced? In a 22-page report, there are 42 uses of the word ‘should’! What we need is a programme and strategy – not just hope – for change!

An incoming Labour government has no intention of doing anything more than seek a “partnership” of national and local government with more than 10,000 mainly private providers, with little mechanism to force those private providers to comply.

Social care must be nationalised. The trade union movement needs to embrace and campaign on this demand. No partnership solution will suffice because the market listens to profit, not health and wellbeing. And the best place to start the campaign is amongst social care and childcare workers themselves in a huge push to unionise the sectors.