A care campaigner told a major regional conference it was time to end the silence on social care and fight for changes to the way the country looks after older and vulnerable adults.
Mike Padgham called for people to stand up for those who do not have a strong voice as he continued an autumn campaign to get the major political parties to support the sector.
He warned that failing to act now would be like the Government’s failure to protect school buildings from RAAC putting social care at risk of collapse too.
Speaking at a conference in York, Mr Padgham, Chair of the Independent Care Group (ICG), said: “The people we represent, the most vulnerable, do not have a strong voice. And social care providers – unlike doctors and nurses – do not have a strong voice, or the option of strike action. So, for all of them we cannot stay silent.
“Silence suggests acquiescence, that we quietly agree with the status quo. Quietly accept that nothing will change. But I don’t.”
He said care workers did a fantastic job, 24/7 and vowed to keep campaigning to get better pay for them, on a par with their NHS colleagues.
He told the Caring UK Conference at York Racecourse that years of neglect, followed by the pandemic and cost of living crisis had left social care in crisis, with care and nursing homes and homecare providers closing. Some 1.6m people cannot get the care they need and there are 152,000 staff vacancies in the sector.
He said just as the Government had failed to invest in rebuilding buildings that had used RAAC, they had also historically failed to invest in social care – putting both at risk of catastrophic failure.
He told the conference that he had been accused of talking too negatively about the state of social care, but added: “It isn’t negative to say, we need positive change. It isn’t negative to say, we need to change the narrative for social care.
It isn’t negative to wish we could have parity with the NHS at the very least. And it isn’t negative to say, as the TUC said last week, that care workers deserve at least £15 per hour, because 61% of them earn less than the real living wage!”
He urged all delegates to join their local care associations to strengthen their voice and help them campaign for change.
“I strongly believe in strength in numbers and that we need to increase our membership, strengthen our alliances and raise our voice. As I said earlier, the people we care for and the sector we work in don’t have a voice. We have to give them one.
“All providers should join their local association – providing strength in numbers and speaking up for social care.
“We must lobby our MPs to get social care reform on the agenda for the party conferences. And fight to get manifesto pledges from those that want our vote at the upcoming General Election.”
During the speech, he set out the ICG’s Autumn Campaign:
• Share the ICG’s Five Pillars of Social Care Reform document with politicians
• Seek to get social care on the party conference agendas
• Strengthen our local alliances and forge new ones
• Press for social care reform to be a manifesto pledge
• Keep lobbying – keep campaigning!
The Five Pillars of Social Care Reform document has been sent to all the main political parties.
The five pillars are:
• Ring fence a percentage of GDP to be spent on providing social care to
• those who already receive it and the 1.6m who can’t get it
• Create a unified National Care Service, incorporating health and social care
• Set a National Minimum Wage per hour for care staff on a par with NHS
• Set up an urgent social care task force to oversee reform
• Fix ‘fair price for care’ tariffs for things like care beds and homecare visits.