Monday, 11 June 2012

Raise the Social Value of Social Care

“Why is it you need a degree to get a job in fashion, but when it comes to looking after our most vulnerable members of society any one with no qualifications can get a job as a support worker?” (Guest Blogger, Whose Shoes: )

The above quote highlights one of the intrinsic issues facing social care in today’s society and that is the social value of care services. Whilst the Government will focus on than who actually pays for social care, rather than the actual cost of care services and others focus on the quality of care services provided, yet perhaps where we need to start is changing the view of the wider population to view social care as an essential service, as essential as health given the demographic trends, and a view that social care is there to enhance life rather than be the beginning of the end of life process.

Social Care is not a highly rated career choice. Be honest and ask yourself would you encourage your son or daughter to pursue a career in social care? While many people, when asked, will state that they admire care workers and the work that they do, I suspect that many parents would not be encouraging their children to undertake such a low-paid, low esteem job role. This is, perhaps, reflected in the demographics of social care workers with those aged between 18 & 24 making up around 14% of the workforce and even if we include those up to the age of 34 we still only get to 36% of the workforce. In other words, two-thirds of care workers are aged 35 or above.

This rather suggests, although I can find no research to back it up, that social care work is a career of opportunity, i.e. a matter of what is available when needing a job in later life, rather than a deliberate career choice.

Yet, surely, caring for those in most need in society should be a job that is celebrated and regarded as an important role in our society, one that is rewarded appropriately in accordance with the gravitas associated with the work role.

Another, yet highly connected, issue in terms of valuing social care is that the seeming denial of many people when it comes to their own future and the potential need for care services in the future. Naturally none of us like to think about the possibility of getting old or suffering from some form of dementia and that denial leads to people ignoring the idea of social care until such time that it touches their lives. People do not want to think about being reliant on others to help them through their daily lives and, subsequently, do not think about the type of person they would want to deliver that care.

The same type of denial applies to other types of social care. If it does not directly impact on the life of a person they tend to ignore the issues of those with learning disabilities or mental health issues.

The forthcoming White Paper needs to do more than make technical changes to the current system, it needs to reach out to those not yet affected by the need for social care services and highlight that social care is about everyone’s future not just about those who need services now.

Raising the social value of social care is vitally important and needs to be the priority of Government Policy