With growing concern about the quality of home care, Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, is here to explain why there needs to be a revolution in care services.
Caring is a fact of life. At some point in our lives almost all of us will need care or provide care to an ill, older or disabled loved one.
Without the right support, the costs of caring can be high. Over one million people have been forced to give up their jobs or reduce working hours to care, and then often face financial hardship, poor health and isolation as a result.
According to our research at Carers UK, a third of carers who had cut back on working hours or were forced out of work did so because they couldn’t find suitable care services to help them juggle work and care.
The care services they could find were often too expensive, not appropriate or simply not of a good enough quality to trust. And then there’s the care that’s provided in a rush, like the examples of 15 minute appointments from care workers to help someone get out of bed, washed, dressed and given breakfast.
Families bear brunt of care failings
Which? has highlighted serious failings in care services after asking 40 family members to keep a diary of how their cared-for relatives were treated. These diaries included powerful stories of families being let down by unacceptable standards of care.
Faced with this kind of service, along with care workers being untrained, late and sometimes uncaring – families can end up in a cycle of complaint letters and angry phone calls, or just being unable to use the services they desperately need.
A broken home care system
It’s wrong to lay all the blame for this on care workers, many of whom are doing their best in difficult conditions with little support. Many families get great support from care workers. However, poor services are very often the visible result of a social care system starved of the funding it needs to meet growing demand.
As the government cuts councils’ budgets, social services are being asked to deliver more care services to growing numbers of older and disabled people for less. The sums don’t add up. Quality often suffers, but charges for services are also rising and many families are seeing the support they get cut.
Carers are paying the price in their physical and mental health, family finances and often at the cost of their careers. But it is not just families who feel the effect; employers point to increasing numbers of essential staff forced to leave their jobs at the peak of their skills and experience to care for their ageing parents. This is bad for business and bad for the economy – with Age UK estimating the total cost in lost earnings and tax revenues and additional welfare to be £5.3 billion a year.
Alongside fighting for more investment in social care, we need to rethink what care services more broadly look like. It’s time for a revolution in care services to fit with the reality of busy family and working lives and get that triple win we desperately need – for families, for people needing care, and for the economy.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK – all opinions expressed here are Heléna’s own, not necessarily those of Which?