Birmingham home carers on strike, Photo: Birmingham Socialist Party
Birmingham home carers on strike, Photo: Birmingham Socialist Party

Dan Smart, Bristol North Socialist Party

Nothing has changed. Since the care staffing scandal hit the headlines last year, hundreds of thousands of people are still awaiting vital support for their most basic of living needs. As much as the Tories would like to sweep it under the rug, the problem is not going away.

In fact, the situation has got much worse. The number of people awaiting social care has almost doubled to half a million since 2021, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).

Care agency Caremark told the BBC that “demand is very, very high”. It reported that, while in the past they accepted almost all requests to provide care, it now turns down 80% of requests from councils, unable to get enough staff!

It’s no great mystery as to the cause of the problem. Care staff are criminally underpaid and undervalued. Most care staff earn less than £10 an hour for work that can require a huge amount of skill and sensitivity, as well as being extremely high-pressured and demanding.

Increasingly, workers leave to find better-paid work in other sectors such as retail or cleaning. The situation is compounded by the cost-of-living crisis.

Care agencies complain of being unable to raise wages to attract new recruits and at the same time stay afloat. That may be the case for some smaller organisations, but the majority of care bosses are doing very well out of the situation. For example, owners of care home operator HC-One received £18.9 million of government Covid pay outs. Meanwhile it was siphoning millions in tax-free profits to the Cayman Islands!

What an indictment of the systematic privatisation of care, that vulnerable people are having to rely on family or precarious voluntary provision to get by, or otherwise end up in hospital or worse. The government and local authorities could end this crisis now by bringing care services back in-house, paying a minimum of £15 per hour, and giving staff the recognition they deserve.