Local council services are an important part of our communities and how we live.
They are a safety net for when things go wrong, they bring communities together and help us to improve our quality of life.
Adult social care services, such as homecare, care homes and day centres, are vital for older and disabled people who need support. Many people face a range of debilitating issues as they get older, including loneliness, poverty, long-term health conditions or disability. Well-funded social care services help people to live at home for longer and remain part of their communities, and they relieve pressure on other services like the NHS.
Since 2010, the government has cut £12.5bn from local services, almost 40% of their funding.
Social care services have been underfunded for a long time, but the extreme spending cuts of recent years have created a crisis in social care. Almost £2bn has been lost from social care budgets in the past ten years.
More than a quarter of care homes are in danger of going out of business in the next three years. Privatisation of most social care services also means that money is ‘lost’ to the care system in profits and commissioning costs.
Whilst the amount of money available to spend on social care falls, the number of older and disabled people who need help is growing fast. In 2015, more than one million people in England had at least one care need that is not looked after and this number will increase if the Government does not take action now.
For workers in social care services, recent cuts have made their working lives increasingly difficult. UNISON members have told us about having less time to deal with rising workloads and more intense demands from clients with increasingly complex needs.
Social care workers are overworked and undervalued, struggling to make ends meet on low pay or working on zero-hours or insecure contracts.
UNISON is also very concerned about the impact these cuts have had on the people social care workers look after. Our members told us that they were under pressure to deliver specialist care with little or no training, putting people at risk of discomfort, infections or overdoses. They also described rationing or shortages of basic supplies, including sheets, wipes and incontinence pads.
What can we do to save social care services?
UNISON believes that a significant injection of funding to the social care sector, through increased financial support to local authorities, is necessary to stop the growing crisis in care.
UNISON is calling on the government to:
- Invest necessary additional resources into our social care system so that it has enough funding to provide decent pay and conditions, training and a quality service
- Review its commitment to privatisation of care, to ensure that all available public money is spent on the service, not on company’s profit margins, debt charges and commissioning costs
- Introduce legislation that sets fair mandatory standards of employment and care for commissioning, using UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter standards as a guide
- Tackle the scandal of widespread non-payment of the national minimum wage, the national living wage, travel time and the unlawful deductions from earnings in the social care sector through targeted HMRC inspections and prosecutions
On 16 November – SOS Day – UNISON activists and communities across the UK will join together to raise awareness of the devastating impact of underfunding and privatisation on older people’s social care services. W
e will call on local and national decision-makers to take action on shameful spending cuts and ask councils to commit to providing ethical, good quality care.
Find out what you can do to support SOS Day by reading our campaign briefing or take a look at our blog posts about social care cuts and SOS Day in the ‘Latest News’ tab above.
Working together, we can save local services and make sure that much-needed support still exists for everyone’s benefit in the future.