The crisis in social care

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2017 Local Government Service Group Conference
14 February 2017
Carried as Amended

Conference recognises that the social care system is in crisis. Council spending on social care fell by 9% in real terms between 2010 and 2015 due to huge funding cuts from central government. The number of pensioners receiving care from their local council fell by 26% over that period. The King’s Fund estimate that the social care system faces a funding gap of £2.3bn for 2017 alone. UNISON condemns the failure of the Government to address the funding crisis in both its autumn statement and local government funding settlement at the end of 2016.

Conference believes that the council tax precept for funding social care is unfair. The social care funding gap must be met in full by central government, and distributed as necessary based on needs. It should not have to be funded locally.

Behind these figures are innumerable people suffering needlessly on a daily basis. Care workers continue to be exploited in a variety of ways. Non-compliance with the National Living and National Minimum Wage rates remains rife throughout the sector, with UNISON being given evidence that some care workers are being paid as little as £3.27 an hour. UNISON has also received reports of care workers having to ration the distribution of items like incontinence pads to care users, which highlights the level of indignity being heaped upon elderly and disabled people within the system.

UNISON applauds the work of the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, Corporate Watch and the Centre for Health and the Public Interest in highlighting the damaging effects of privatisation of the social care system, a factor which is often overlooked in any discussions about the sector. UNISON believes that the social care crisis will only be solved when services are properly funded, the widespread trend of privatisation is reversed, and steps are taken to ensure that care workers are given fair treatment to allow them to deliver good quality care.

Accordingly conference welcomes the fact that 10% of councils in England, Wales and Scotland have now adopted the Ethical Care Charter to improve care standards and treatment of the workforce in the homecare sector. Conference also welcomes and endorses the creation of UNISON’S Residential Care Charter, and the work being undertaken in the North West region which is prioritising efforts to recruit, organise and improve standards in the social care sector.

Conference recognises that there is still much to be done in order to improve the pay and working conditions of homecare workers and to prevent the care sector from collapsing.

Conference therefore instructs the service group executive, working with other service groups, the NEC, policy and public affairs and the strategic organising unit to:

1) Continue its efforts to force the government to improve compliance with the National Living Wage in the care sector, and continue to campaign for a genuine living wage for care workers;

2) Encourage regions to use the Ethical Care Charter and UNISON’s Residential Care Charter as a basis to improve the working conditions of care workers whilst organising and recruiting in the sector;

3) Work with Labour Link and all other available avenues to try and positively influence the Labour Party’s approach to resolving the social care crisis;

4) Work with other campaigning organisations and groups to encourage the view that the social care sector needs to take urgent steps to improve the treatment of the workforce alongside the urgent need for more funding;

5) Work with organisations like the Centre for Health and the Public Interest to highlight the damaging effects of privatisation of social care services and to build support for the delivery of these services within the public sector;

6) Explore the impact the Better Care Fund has had on health and social care integration and the social care funding crisis, in different local authorities;

7) Further pursue the call made at local government conference 2016 for an NEC-organised special one-day delegate conference on the crisis in social care.