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Spare more than a thought for our care workforce

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Care and support, Carers, Communities

Icon showing a hanf holding a heart inside a houseUniting to care

As millions of our fellow citizens, family, neighbours and friends contemplate the coming weeks, we need to think about how we behave as individuals and our interactions with friends, families and our wider communities.

It's more important than ever for us to work together and watch each other’s backs. It is only through solidarity, self awareness and a collective conscience that we can come through this.

In particular, I’m talking about one often marginalised, group - the care workers, managers, cleaners and cooks who work 24 hours a day, seven days a week in social care. They toil in care homes, supported housing and in people’s own homes, supporting the most frail and vulnerable in our families and communities.

Alongside NHS staff and other essential services, these care professionals really are ‘the front line’. They have to deal with the same anxieties, deprivations and struggles as the rest of us, whilst also turning up and caring, comforting and keeping safe the old, the frail and the vulnerable. They often put themselves at risk and work long exhausting hours away from families and friends.

Care in scrabble letters
More than ever we must consider how language shapes perceptions and accentuate the positive.

Words matter - choose wisely

This workforce is frequently – and inaccurately - described as ‘unskilled’, often paid the lowest rate legally allowed, chided and diminished by some for their service. Now they are charged with this most sacred of tasks.

If they are to effectively support NHS intensive services, their adherence to strict infection controls is more critical than ever. This is about keeping those most at risk, safe and comforted. Our ‘soldiers’ in this ‘war’ are health AND social care staff, let’s never forget that.

Front line social care managers already have one of the most complex, lonely and stressful roles. Balancing people, time and resources to achieve and sustain high quality care is a tough call in normal circumstances - and it’s about to get even tougher. More than ever, we have to acknowledge, protect and support our care professionals’ physical and mental wellbeing too.

They need to be able to buy food and supplies for their families. They don’t have money to hoard and they don’t deserve to finish work to discover empty shelves at the supermarket.

They need access to the right equipment, guidance and advice. Ministers, MPs, the Department of Health and Social Care, indeed all of us must prioritise them, in the same way they prioritise our kin.

Let us sincerely hope we don’t, when this is over, rue the decades of disdain and neglect some areas of society have shown this essential part of our social and economic infrastructure.

super hero stick figures in leadership poses
Health and care colleagues are the real superheroes in these unprecedented times.

Faith in our care colleagues

I for one am confident that our care and support professionals, both as individuals and members of their organisations, will rise to the task, but they won’t achieve this without our thanks, understanding and support.

Society, through the resources of the state, must consider social care in every decision, contingency and resource distribution.

Here at the Care Provider Alliance (CPA) we are engaging with and challenging government at all levels to deliver the support people working in care deserve.

We are supporting providers by talking to Ministers to help them understand the reality of working in the care and support sector. We are talking regularly about the physical, mental and economic impact on the workforce, the importance of having the right equipment and the need to be thinking about longer terms impacts once this outbreak is contained.

Perhaps, when we are through, it will have dawned on us as quite how much the social care sector is a matter of primary, national and strategic importance.

Perhaps those of us already wearing supportive NHS badges should also wear a ‘CARE’ badge with pride too!

Coronavirus (COVID-19) further information

For advice on what to do if you are concerned you, your family or someone you know may have symptoms of the virus please visit NHS England and GOV.UK web pages for the latest information.

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  1. Comment by Stella posted on

    Thanks so much for posting this speaking up for social carers. I work in social care (but am on booked leave this week). I've had many 'more seen as valued' careers in my life-am 61 now) but for the last 14&1/2 years hv worked in a day centre for vulnerable adults of all kinds, & can honestly say it's the most emotionally & physically challenging I've ever done, & intellectually keeping up with policies, a few eg Social Care Act, MCA, & doing what nurses used to do eg PEG feeding, administering meds. Think it is the most undervalued & worst paid job, prob as seen as 'women's work'.
    Now we have CV19, we don't have enough PPE, & I may be expected to move work next week to work in a large elderly care home (a LATC) & am worried about transmission. Social care workers urgently need testing for CV now, and valued & paid better in the future.

    • Replies to Stella>

      Comment by Lisa Lenton posted on

      Completely agree Stella! And we are doing all we can for that to be recognised. Keep up the amazing work you are doing!

  2. Comment by Carol Vaughan posted on

    Well done... thank you for this article, and thank you to all the staff that turn up for their shifts in our Care Home

  3. Comment by Chris posted on

    I think it is great that everyone appears to hold NHS and Care / Support staff in such high regard at this moment in time. It is very easy to say this. The test will however come in the future when this crisis is diminishing in terms of future pay settlements and pension rights etc. The sector has been brought to its knees over many years and public sector and other similar staff have been said to have highly lucrative pensions that far exceed anything the private sector have. This kind of propaganda must stop and we should return to the days where staff were valued and paid a reasonable wage and viewed as skilled workers.

  4. Comment by joy Farrell posted on

    I have worked in health and social care for 39 years, I now have a care agency and for me its about recognising and appreciating the continuing work that we are all doing at these very challenging times.
    its about pulling together supporting each other.
    Taking steps to keep us safe
    Lets think about everyone that is working.
    We are all worried and concerned about COVID 19 The vulnerable adults we care for need our care, so we must carry on.
    Take care everyone

  5. Comment by Ben posted on

    Incredible article.
    Being from a family that started up a Home Care company I have been around it my entire life, this article is the first time the Carers also on the front line, have been appreciated in the way they should've always been.
    I hope this is the start of a new beginning for the recognition that all carers be it in the hospital, care home or clients home deserve.
    The low skilled, low pay and long hours deserve more from the Government, the low pay is due to the funding deficit since 2008, the long hours is due to the incredible hard task of getting people to start a career in Care when the bias has been so negative. The low skilled is just insane the list of the things they do/learn/communicate with every client is so different that most of us couldn't comprehend.
    Thanks for the great article Lisa

  6. Comment by Guardian Angel Carers posted on

    I'm really happy to see this article. Let's hope it gets recognised more widely amongst our decision makers, and that our care team get the testing kits and PPE needed to continue to deliver an invaluable service.

  7. Comment by Jan Bywaters posted on

    I'd also like to thank you for this article especially the staff in my son's supported living abode. I really appreciate what they do for my son and other residents considering they have families of their own. It must be dreadful attempting to get to work (and home) and shopping, cleaning, cooking etc while keeping the spirits up of those they care for. When this is over, I sincerely hope that the meagre wages paid to these 'angels' are given a decent boost.

  8. Comment by sandra posted on

    Thanks for your comment Iam 67 still working in a nursing home as a registerd nurse my husband is 72 with a heart condition and scared to return to work after annual leave No support from small nursing home

  9. Comment by Helen Wilcox posted on

    Thank you for this very clear statement of where are and where we need to be going forward. I just hope that we can do what’s required in time for staff to feel recognised and really valued by the Government.
    We know how much individuals and families value what we do.

  10. Comment by Sharon Gregory posted on

    We in care ARE the first tier of healthcare. We support the NHS by endeavouring to keep our clients healthy, happy and living at home.
    We are incredibly proud to be doing our job even without this current crisis. Every time carers are mentioned I raise a little cheer- yippee! Let us hope we will continue to be properly valued by those who so recently derided our capabilities and our contribution to the wellness of our nation.