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Government must get a grip on the social care crisis!

JANUARY 13, 2020

We do not need to wait for the government to publish its long-delayed green paper on social care for older people in England to know that years of significant underfunding of councils, coupled with rising demand and costs for care and support, have combined to push adult social care services to absolute breaking point.

In its latest publication, Labour Research looks at the causes and scale of the social care crisis, its impact and at the campaigns being led by trade unions for change.

Since 2010, councils have had to bridge a £6 billion funding shortfall to keep the adult social care system going, and services face an estimated £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025 just to maintain existing standards of care. At the same time, councils face an increased demand for services with 1.8 million new requests for adult social care each year — nearly 5,000 every day.

In addition to the lack of fair and sustainable funding for the sector, Unite has major concerns for its members around low pay, particularly in relation to payment for sleep-in shifts, lack of training and career development, and health and safety.

Siobhan Endean, Unite’s national officer for women’s equality, education and not for profit sector highlights the stark fact that the majority of workers in social care are women employed on low pay and that there is a huge disparity in terms of this pay across the adult and children’s social care sector.

This concern is also borne out by the sector skills council Skills for Care who have described perceptions of care work as a minimum wage sector as “a source of national shame”.

This national shame must be challenged and Unite is leading the call for sectoral collective bargaining in social care which would put an end to the poor treatment and underpayment of care workers and which would prevent unscrupulous employers using loopholes to pay workers less than the National Minimum Wage, particularly in relation to sleep-in shifts.

Sectoral collective bargaining in social care would not remove the need for minimum standards set down in legislation but could build upon these statutory standards and would ensure that minimum rights do not become the maximum.

Unite is also calling on government to show leadership and to develop a national strategy with funding at its heart. There needs to be an urgent discussion between government, employers and trade unions about a way forward to provide the funding for good quality social care provision that includes high quality training and the acquisition of skills, career development and decent pay so that people want to work in the sector.

You can read the full article from the September 2018 issue of Labour Research, the UK’s specialist monthly magazine for trade unionists, in full here. You can also subscribe to Labour Research and other trade union publications at

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