We need a “Marcus Rashford” moment for social care

Guest blog from Lisa Hopkins, Chief Executive of SeeAbility

One of the two biggest frustrations working in social care and leading a charity that is privileged to support people with disabilities is a) a misconception about what social care ‘is’ and ‘does’ and b) a total failure to fund it sufficiently.

In the last decade, councils (who are by far the largest commissioners of social care and of our social care support) have seen nearly £8 billion carved out of their adult social care budgets.

There is a library full of reports and proposals made to successive governments to sort things out, but we’re still in the same old situation we have had for years, despite the best efforts of campaigners.

Even during a pandemic which has exposed many of the successes and problems in social care, all we have from government is a promise of proper reform “in due course”.

It’s all made me ponder whether social care needs its own Marcus Rashford moment.  I’m sure he is a bit too busy with critical food poverty campaigning to help us out in social care, but perhaps we can learn something from his approach.

Firstly, he brings his own lived experience to the table. His message is fundamentally about children having ordinary lives and fulfilling their potential. That’s just as important for people with disabilities, and why our Head of Engagement, Scott Watkin, is helping the Social Care Futures campaign, which is led by people with lived experience calling for a new vision for social care (please do contribute your views for their inquiry – there are lots of ways to do so).

Secondly, Marcus Rashford’s campaign singled out an urgent straightforward ask of government which was not just the ‘right thing to do’ at a time of crisis, but as part of a roadmap to more complex, and long term reform.

Here in social care surely there is nothing more urgent or straightforward for this government to do than address the issue of care and support staff pay. This would be a key step towards attraction and retention of colleagues to our sector.

A major part of attraction and retention is pay – this is the item that no organisation can deal with on their own – no matter how attractive otherwise – there has to be a national, coordinated response, which then allows good organisations to differentiate themselves over and above the pay threshold.

Ministers have been quick to highlight that care worker pay goes up each April to reflect the rise in the National Living Wage. But why is that something to celebrate after what we have witnessed during this pandemic?

Why is pegging the sacrifices and the skills of this, our workforce, to £8.72 an hour an acceptable policy response?

At SeeAbility we’re pleased to be supporting the BetterPay4SocialCare campaign that at the very least frontline staff should be paid the Real Living Wage and elsewhere campaigners are marking a day of action today, 3rd February 2021.

We may not have Marcus Rashford’s social media reach but millions of us make use of social care, and millions work in social care – so let’s use our collective voices to tell the government that this would be the ‘right thing to do’!

Why not sign the BetterPay4SocialCare petition and help get it to the doors of Downing Street?

Read more: SeeAbility’s policy position statement and Easy Read statement