Delivery of good quality care is as important for the clients receiving it as it is for those who provide it.
That is why I am continuing to work with councillors and officers from Wirral Borough Council, as well as those who have experience of the care market, towards Wirral being at the forefront of delivering high quality care.
Last year I took the opportunity of a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament to impress upon the Government Minister with responsibility for care and support the daily problems faced by those who receive, provide or seek care services. Details of my contribution to the debate can be found at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2013-03-06a.243.0&s=alison+mcgovern+segment%3A22378112#g250.0
Recent studies of care delivered in client’s homes has revealed a workforce committed to doing their best for the people they are caring for but who are often prevented from doing so by not being allowed sufficient time per call to do all necessary work, by training needs that are not always fully met and by increased staff turnover due to low pay, fluctuating wages and not being paid for travelling time between calls, often resulting in a failure to comply with the minimum wage.
Although the Conservative / Lib-Dem coalition government’s failing attempts to reduce the national debt has left many councils, particularly those where need is greatest, facing massive budget shortfalls I do not believe this is a reason to postpone efforts to improve life for those dependent on receiving care or the working conditions of those who provide it.
The challenge is how to bring about the much needed improvements in a time of austerity. Although the task might at first sight appear insurmountable there is a strong argument that additional resources can be financed from savings elsewhere when improved and appropriately timed care and support leads to reduced hospital admissions as well as reduced associated demands on medical and social services.
The provision of care in all its forms is a large and diverse issue but by making a start through, for example, providing training to constant and accredited standards, establishing a professional register of accredited carers, enabling market choice to function properly by increasing the available information about service providers and the standards they achieve, setting and enforcing the application of realistic time slots for home visits requiring certain tasks to be completed, addressing the issues of low pay, lack of pay for travelling between clients and of Zero Hours contracts.
I applaud Wirral Borough Council’s recent decision to implement Unison’s Ethical Care Charter which is intended to deliver improvements for both those providing and those receiving care. I also welcome the Wirral council’s commitment to pay at least the Living Wage to its employees and believe this should become the starting point for all who work in the care sector.
All of the above actions taken together will not address every care related issue but they will go a long way to developing a baseline for care that is greatly better than that which is generally available today.
Finally I have in conjunction with Labour colleagues completed an investigation into the impact of zero-hour contracts, under which employees’ hours of work are not guaranteed. This often results in hours of work being cancelled at the last minute, or being forced to work longer hours often impacting on childcare arrangements. Fluctuating hours can cause problems for people claiming Tax Credits, often resulting in huge overpayments which need to be repaid to HM Revenue and Customs.