Over the past couple of years or so we seem to have been inundated with reports in the media about the state of social care in the UK none of which have been favourable to say the least. So how is it we’ve come to a state of affairs where the people who are employed to look out for, care and support the most vulnerable members of our society are the very people who are neglecting and abusing them?
The simple answer of course is inadequate funding. Government refuses to finance local authorities who in turn are forced to work according to a triage system that is far from transparent and is baffling in its inconsistency. In their turn the local authorities are looking to get the best deal from the private care providers they subcontract to, who in order to make profit keep wages low, cut the quality of induction and training, fail to provide adequate supervision and direct observation of their employees and perhaps most importantly offer little or no support when a member of staff is struggling. This seems to be especially prevalent in community care services where the employee is lone working.
I should point out of course that I speak from personal and anecdotal experience. The anecdotal experience mainly coming from care managers, care/support workers and more importantly service users and their families. As I said earlier inadequate funding is the simple answer and although I believe that the cuts to public services are wrong, poorly thought out and should be fought by anyone with a conscience and a modicum of intelligence, that doesn’t mean we should abandon good attitudes and values when it comes to care provision. It’s the easy or more accurately, lazy option
So how do we maintain, or in some cases obtain, good attitudes and values in social care in these austere times?
This is the part where I can start to rant about private care providers promoting the wrong people for the wrong reasons, about how change has to come from the top and as true as that may be, it pushes aside my own responsibilities to those I work for, the people who in all the current argument and counter argument we seem to be losing sight of, the service users themselves and if I do that I’m guilty of neglect and just as bad as those I rail against. You see the truth is the austerity isn’t going to end any time soon, in fact, a report by the Nuffield Trust on the future of NHS and social care funding states:
“After the end of this period of deficit reduction the future is still far from bright. The government is planning to cut total public spending in real terms by an average of 0.9 per cent a year over the two years 2015/16 and 2016/17. Within this, spending on welfare benefits and debt interest payments are forecast to continue increasing which, if unchecked, would leave public services facing deeper cuts. Even if the government were to implement welfare cuts of £8.5 billion (in today’s terms) in 2016/17, as mooted by the Chancellor, George Osborne, in his March 2012 Budget speech, spending on public services in the UK would still need to be cut in real terms by an average of 1.7 per cent a year over 2015/16 and 2016/17 to keep to the current spending plans.”
( NHS and social Care Funding: The Outlook to 2021/22) http://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/sites/files/nuffield/publication/120704_nhs-social-care-funding-outlook-2021-22_0.pdf
To those of us who care even in the slightest it is at best a depressing prospect and at worst liable to induce a kind of anger so all consuming as to be ineffectual. And that is where our own personal attitudes and values come in to play. Now, more than ever is a time for the practice of a bit of honest self reflection in our work. It can help us keep perspective at times when we feel overwhelmed by emotion, and a sense of perspective can make a big difference in someone’s life when they are reliant on us for their care and support.
At the end of each working day ask yourself:
What did I have to do today?
Did I manage to get it done?
If not why not?, what happened today?How did I react?
Was my reaction appropriate?
Did I treat the person I was working with in a way I would want myself or a member of my family to be treated?
Do I need to get some advice/support from somewhere?”
And there it is. No-one is asking you to be Christ, Ghandi or Buddha. Just that you take some time to think and direct your anger and sense of injustice about working conditions and the current state of social care in the appropriate direction. Too many of the people we care for and support are getting caught in the crossfire. Don’t let it be you that pulls the trigger.
Carl Spaul (Support Worker)
Carl Spaul has been a Support Worker for adults with learning disabilities since 2004, working for two private care providers. He is now in the process of cutting out the middle man, as they say, by taking on private work with a view to becoming a self employed Personal Assistant.