Conference hears the promise of a national care service

Delegates heard Labour’s manifesto commitment to build a national care service ‘wouldn’t be in there if it wasn’t for our union’

Images: Marcus Rose

Just days after Labour included a pledge in its general election manifesto to build a national care service, UNISON conference debated a composite motion on the subject.

Moving the motion this morning, Jordan Rivera of the NEC (pictured below) said: “As an NHS occupational therapist working in an elderly care ward, I see patients staying in hospital on a daily basis, because they can’t get care,” adding that, every day longer they spend in hospital, they are put at risk of getting sick again.

“This is the result of successive Tory administrations failing to tackle care. Boris Johnson was lying when he said he had a plan to tackle care,” Ms Rivera argued.

The motion notes UNISON’s strong campaigning work on the issue and Ms Rivera said she was “proud that UNISON has made social care a priority campaigning and organising issue.”

A key part of that campaigning was the commissioning of a Fabian Society report – Support Guaranteed. The report is a piece of expert research which lays out a detailed roadmap of how an incoming government can build a national care service and it has become a leading source of policy in the care sector.

As a consequence of this and the union’s continued work with the Labour Party, before the announcement of the general election many Labour MPs attended a Westminster event to pledge to support the introduction of a national care service.

Noting Labour’s inclusion of a commitment to bring about a national care service and a fair pay agreement for care workers in their manifesto, Ms Rivera said: “That wording wouldn’t be in there if it wasn’t for our union.

“To Labour, thank you for including the national care service commitment in your manifesto. Now make sure you do it.”

Helen Greer from North Yorkshire local government branch then spoke, asking conference: “For how many years have we been talking about fixing social care?

“I recall in the ’80s, senior managers in our LA talking to workers about the need to plan for social care in the next century and beyond.”

Polly Smith, a care worker from Suffolk, detailed the harrowing experiences care workers go through every day. She noted that many are on minimum wage, zero-hour contracts with huge workloads and working unsocial hours.

In Scotland, the devolved government has launched a national care service, though one Scottish delegate said: “The Scottish NCS is a rebranding exercise and is a shambles. It is aimed at ‘ensuring that the care service remains vibrant and stable’ – this means retaining its ‘for profit’ provision.

“We need a real national care service where the money spent on care goes towards care, not the hands of private shareholders – we need a proper public national care service.

“Conference, accept no substitutes.”