Undervalued, underpaid, undermined. What’s happened to dignity, respect and understanding?Type: Blogs
Topic: Care regulation | Coronavirus | Day Services | Disability rights | Learning disability | Policy and legislation
Published on: 22nd December 2020
If you are involved in the delivery of adult social care services, you will know what a fantastic job social care staff and volunteers have done throughout the Covid19 pandemic. Many services have continued to be provided, people have been kept safe, staff and volunteers have worked flat out and made personal sacrifices to ensure that those we care for are as well looked after as circumstances allow. However, you will also know that the pandemic experience for many involved in social care has been devastating.
Concerns highlighted in weekly meetings
Camphill Scotland have held weekly Covid19 response meetings with our members since the beginning of the pandemic. We have heard first-hand about their mixed experiences with regulators such as the Care Inspectorate, with Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCP) and Public Health; engaging with their political representatives to highlight the issues at hand has become a weekly task.
Our weekly members’ meetings have provided a space for peer support, but they have also raised huge concerns: adults in receipt of social care services have been undervalued, care staff continue to be side-lined in pay deals and care providers have been undermined in doing what they do best – meeting the needs of those they care for in safe, healthy and fulfilling environments.
What’s more, it’s a postcode lottery. Some communities have brilliantly strong relationships with their Inspector and colleagues in HSCPs’ with services being supported and championed. In other areas of the country, families are being let down terribly.
Impact of Covid19
Camphill in Scotland supports around 600 people with learning disabilities and other support needs. The 11 Camphill communities in Scotland employ around 1,000 members of staff and volunteers, have a combined income of over £22 million and have 80 years of social care experience to draw from.
As a collective body, our members’ experiences show us that support from regulators and local authority officers has ranged from excellent to non-existent, with much confusion and mixed messaging in-between. Whilst such variances reflect our members’ position pre-Covid19, the response to the pandemic by regulators and representatives has magnified fundamental problems within the sector. The balancing act between public health and human rights is undeniably a difficult one to get to grips with. However, the response to Covid19 has, in many instances, only worsened pre-existing issues.
Top 10 issues
Some of our members’ experiences throughout the pandemic have been teased out in Camphill’s collective response to the Independent Review of Adult Social Care commissioned by the Scottish Government. Our top ten issues are highlighted below.
- Social care is not valued within our society. A trained and experienced care-worker earns little more than an untrained school-leaver.
- Elder care provision needs a complete overhaul. The deficiencies in elder care have been laid bare over the past few months.
- A broad-brush approach to managing the pandemic in care home settings means that adults with a learning disability who live in a registered care home have been subject to damaging restrictions and limits which their peers who live out with a registered care home have not experienced.
- Services have been withdrawn without consultation. This trend has been accompanied by the spurious argument – unsupported by evidence or contact with the affected families and carers – that people with learning disabilities and other support needs have coped well without these services throughout lock-down, and that these services are, therefore, not required going forward.
- The withdrawal of services and funding are having a major adverse impact upon the mental health and wellbeing of some of those who require such services, upon their family members and upon the care staff who are trying to fill the gap. We would encourage you to read a Corbenic parent’s blog – Family struggles in lockdown.
- Staff in day services feel forgotten and undervalued. They have not had access to additional funding made available to other supported living services. The provision of buildings and staff are core expenses that require continuity in funding. Once capacity is lost or redeployed it is no longer available for day care.
- From our experience we can only conclude that some local authorities are using the public health crisis as a shield to cover cutbacks in services, particularly in the provision of day support and supported employment services.
- Low pay and poor career progression have an adverse effect upon recruitment within the social care sector. There is lack of parity of pay within the services, for instance between supported living and day care services.
- Social work support has reduced significantly and very few local authorities now pay even lip service to the notion of a statutory duty to be involved, often limiting their engagement to the annual fee negotiation.
- The most positive experiences with the Care Inspectorate are when there is active involvement of both sides, and a sense of common purpose. However, in some cases the relationship has been little more than transactional and has hindered rather than enhanced the delivery of our care.
Rights-based review welcomed
Whilst we may be living in unprecedented times, social care has a long history. The sector, and those who shape it, are brimming with innovative solutions based on compassion, respect and understanding. We welcome the rights-based approach to the Independent Review of Adult Social Care and we look forward to engaging with partners to bring about change that fosters the good will, the good relations and the good practice of which Scotland can be proud.