UNISON has launched s new vision for a national social care service that will do away with the weak, fragmented system exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Care After Covid: A Vision for Social Care, the union lays out the case for a national system that could properly deal with the day-to-day challenges of caring for vulnerable people and be better prepared for a future health emergency of the same severity as the current pandemic.
UNISON Eastern is waging its Stop the Spread campaign during the crisis, working with councils to ensure care workers and users are properly protected so that they can stop care homes being ravaged by coronavirus.
After the crisis, improved regulation and government oversight, better staff pay, stringent UK-wide professional standards, robust workers’ rights, and strategic long-term investment could help create a resilient care system that resembles the NHS more, says UNISON.
Significant emergency funding is crucial to protect the elderly and disabled from Covid-19 and any future crises, says the document.
In future, social care must become an important economic sector providing high-quality, well-paid jobs and no longer seen as a drain on the public purse. It has the potential to be part of the solution for local economies that have lost jobs because of the virus, says UNISON.
UNISON’s five demands
- A real living wage for all care workers, as an absolute minimum.
- A standard employment contract for care work – including sick pay, contracted hours and pay for all hours on duty, including ‘sleep ins’ and travel time.
- Significant, emergency government funding.
- Professional standards – the Care Certificate should be upgraded and expanded and professional registration should be standardised throughout the UK.
- A partnership working group of commissioners, providers, governments and trade unions must be established to action solutions.
UNISON Eastern social care lead Caroline Hennessy said: “Covid-19 brutally exposed the shortcomings of our social care sector.
“This fragmented, profit-driven model has cost thousands of lives during this pandemic. But even before, underpaid and undervalued staff were at breaking point.
“We should use the principle of the NHS as inspiration for the care sector.
“Essential changes must build on the few positives to come from the pandemic – that care staff are highly skilled people, providing quality care, despite the many challenges they face.
“Never again should there be vulnerable people dying in their thousands in care homes because of poor planning, ignorance, or the relentless pursuit of profits.
“The government must introduce fundamental reform to create a system fit for the future, providing care for everyone who needs it.”