“Of course” I can hear you say “We all care!” But maybe we cannot. Maybe it is not that easy! Perhaps we feel guilty; maybe we are torn between responsibilities and sandwiched between generations dependent upon us. How should the vulnerable be cared for in a civilized society?
Most of us, can expect to become vulnerable when we reach a certain age, some sooner than others. Caring for those who are vulnerable is a necessary good in a civilized society. But care should not depend on having to sell one’s home, nor should it have to mean a family living in poverty as a family member has to give up their job and it certainly should not result in a child repeatedly absent from school because she (and it is usually, but not exclusively, a girl) is caring for a parent at home.
A young carer is anyone under 18 who provides unpaid care or support for a family member or friend who has a physical or mental health condition, is disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol.
It is estimated that there are 175,000 young carers in the UK, but the Princess Royal Trust for Carers say that the real figure could be much higher than this.
As well as supporting the person they look after, a young carer may also be responsible for household tasks such as food shopping, cooking or cleaning, and for helping to look after other siblings. In some cases, a young carer might need to take on tasks that would normally be seen as an adult’s responsibility, such as managing the household budget
None of this should happen. Care should be provided for us when we need it, free, in a professional way, and most importantly with dignity. Everyone is entitled to dignity.
Such is the need for Care to be provided; that some have seen this as a financial opportunity. An opportunity similar to those who have profited from buy to let housing, and added to over-inflation in the housing market. Making money out the vulnerable is unethical, and should not be tolerated in a civilised society.
This is highlighted by the on-going demise of “Southern Cross Healthcare”. One might ask what are the priorities for Southern Cross? The first responsibility of Southern Cross, a limited company, is to its shareholders, not to its ‘customers’, who are amongst the most vulnerable people in our society. This first priority should not be ignored. The idea that one can make large profits from providing care for the vulnerable elderly is uncivilised, unethical. … and well, wrong!
Reference (1) Southern Cross Stock Market figures from Guardian
The welfare of our ‘people in care’ should not be dependent on the vagaries of the markets and financial devices. Furthermore, we the tax-payer, will need to pick up the pieces if Southern Cross or similar company fails, because there can be no question of abandoning their ‘customers’! Similar to the Banking sector, the failure of the market will become ‘nationalised’ whilst the profits will likely find their way to some tax haven. A Labour government should return to the provision of ’care’ by the state, local services or not-for-profit companies.
Ideally, those working within the Care Service should have a state-funded training to professional standards, as is the case for other ’caring’ public services. Training should include communication skills, counselling, and expertise in caring for their clients. In some Care Homes, confused people may be being cared by individuals who cannot even speak clear, fluent English. This must be quite distressing to already confused individuals struggling to get their needs understood. Furthermore, their professionalism should be rewarded by good pay and conditions. At present, valuable and committed care-workers, are generally paid little more than the minimum wage, and as this report from the Guardian (2) indicates, employees on very poor pay are experiencing poor treatment by employers.
Southern Cross staffs are being asked to agree to harsh new working conditions which one care worker described as “the modern-day equivalent of slavery”.
A copy of the company’s proposals, obtained by the Guardian, “invites” employees to sign away basic employment rights such as being paid for lunch breaks. Southern Cross, Britain’s biggest care homes operator, is struggling to stave off insolvency and has agreed in principle to hand back hundreds of its 750 homes to landlords because it can no longer afford to pay annual rent of £230m.
The company is cutting 3,000 staff and attempting to impose a new contract of employment on workers, many of whom already work 12-hour shifts and are paid little more than the minimum wage of £5.90 an hour.
I hear your sighs, perhaps cries of anger, but wait, it gets worse.
Michael Meacher M.P. reports on his blog (3) of links of Southern Cross with companies who make profits from within our shores and who pay no tax because of protection by so-called tax havens.
“Up to half of the properties at the 753 care homes were acquired by a company called NHP, of which the ultimate parent company is Delta Commercial Property. This is a company owned by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and is registered in the Isle of Man. The financial returns for this company are consolidated within Libra No.2 Ltd, incorporated and registered in the Cayman Islands. Other corporate shareholders over the last decade have as their ultimate holding company RBS, Bank of New York, Barclays, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Lloyds, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Royal Bank of Canada – a roll call of many of the world’s biggest banks”
How has this been allowed to happen we may ask ourselves as we have had a Labour government in power so very recently? Labour need to get back be to the caring Party of Clement Atlee, and on a return to power bring about the policies which ensure that the caring of citizens of this country from cradle to grave is once again at the foundation of the Party’s mission statement.
Labour must address the very issue of tax avoidance, and reclaim this money in order to fund our National Care Service, to reinvest in our National Health Service, to teach our children comprehensively and effectively, and to build comfortable homes for our people.
I can recall, very painfully, a time when a very close relative suffered dementia to such a degree that it became to difficult for him to be cared for at home, despite all the love and respect held for him. So a decision was made to approach a care home, which could cope with EMI residents (those who are elderly and mentally infirm). The care home chosen (from a choice of two) was privately owned by a GP. The residents’ relatives were pressured to transfer the patients’ NHS registrations from their own GP to those of the owner of the care home, apparently for convenience and for the smooth running of the Care Home (or private business). What a conflict of interest results from this. Very often, the relatives, already ridden with guilt will agree to anything.
This cannot be acceptable. This happened during a time when we had a Labour Party in power, to someone who had voted and worked for Labour, who had worked and paid taxes all his life, and I have to ask now, as his daughter, and on his behalf, “Why was my Dad neglected by the Party he trusted, believed in and worked for?”
This is just one example, which demonstrates that a National Care Service made up of state owned provision must be implemented by a Labour government, or alternatively non-profit provision which must be monitored. GEER will be detailing policies about how we will fund, implement, develop and monitor a new excellent National Care Service.
In March 2010, Labour produced a document entitled Building the National Care Service which laid out the principles:
The comprehensive National Care Service will be underpinned by six founding principles. These principles are enduring, and will be the foundation of the National Care Service for the future:
1. Be universal – supporting all adults with an eligible care need within a framework of national entitlements.
2. Be free when people need it – based on need, rather than the ability to pay.
3. Work in partnership – with all the different organisations and people who support individuals with care and support needs day-to-day.
4. Ensure choice and control – valuing all, treating everyone with dignity, respecting an individual’s human rights, personal to every individual’s needs and putting people in charge of their lives.
5. Support family, carers and community life – recognising the vital contribution families, carers and communities play in enabling people to realise their potential.
6. Be accessible – easy to understand, helping people make the right choices.
What are the different types of care and support?
Personal care – the care you need to assist you with tasks of daily living such as bathing, eating a meal or getting out of bed. This care can take place at home or in residential care.
Home care – the care that is provided at home. This usually includes personal care, but can also include some non- personal care such as help with cleaning, shopping, or washing clothes.
Community care – the care that is provided in the community such as meals on wheels, day centres, short-term respite care, equipment, adaptations and telecare.
Residential care – personal care that is provided in an establishment, which also provides residential accommodation.
Labour should provide all of this and more. Most importantly, funding for hospices should not be dependent on charities. The state or not-for-profit organisations should provide, support and extend this provision.
Some policies, which Labour will need to consider, are:
- To address the tax system and tax avoidance which takes funding away from the UK. It is estimated that tax havens alone reduce the country’s income by at least 18 billion/year. (5)
- To ensure all Care provision is state owned and funded, or non-profit making organisations
- Provide a range of provision of Care in homes, residential care, personal care, and respite care to allow carers to have a break
- Provide financial support for carers, who are already saving the state enormous amounts of money. At present, many are reduced to poverty
- Fund hospices from the public purse.
- Fund further research into dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Labour must remember, “Everyone Matters”,
And show that “Labour Cares”.
1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/southerncrosshealthcare 15th June 2011
Stock chart for Southern Cross Healthcare
Carers will be treated like dogsbodies and sign away employment rights 16th June 2011
Michael Meacher Blog exposes links
4. Document produced by Labour Government
Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Health by Command of Her Majesty 30 March 2010”
5. Richard Murphy (2010) ’Manifesto for Tax Justice’ http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Documents/Manifesto.pdf