This is a large crisis

Yet another ‘expose’ on social care this time by BBC’s Panorama on 20 March reveals a crisis in home care. Whilst the figures are startling – 1 in 4 home care providers at risk of bankruptcy and 95 councils reporting the handing back of contracts – the view within social care is that this isn’t news, so I hope you’ll forgive some gallows Blackadder humour.

Social care, and home care in particular, has been under strain for some years. Home care is a very pressured model of delivering services, relying as it does, almost totally on a mobile labour force. Unlike other parts of the sector, it is much more difficult to use technology to replace people in home care, and as financial commentators have observed it is very difficult to add productivity out of a 1 person (sometimes 2 people) per client visit. The appalling, but now thankfully diminishing, requests by councils across the country for 15-minute visits, show that it is not just about tasks, but relationships too. But still councils persist in payment by the minute, putting pressure on home care to be as quick as possible; in fact, it is a request to deliver care today as care was delivered yesterday. How many of you have a morning or evening routine that is timed to the minute?

So the news that 1 in 4 home care organisations is at risk can be added to 1 in 4 care homes at risk of insolvency and the growing risk of technical insolvency of top tier councils due to budgetary pressures from adult social care with councils using a temporary opportunity to top up revenue through capital receipts , shows that we have a large crisis on our hands. Into the mix we should add property and rental prices in certain parts of of the country, especially Oxfordshire, which are now a challenge for even the moderately well-off, the diminishing attractiveness of working with people (perhaps due to our prevalent ‘selfie’ – selfish? – culture) and the difficulty in maintaining connection with our community when we are all so busy earning money to pay bills. It should come as no surprise, that a sector, which is low-paid with hands largely tied by the crush on public sector funding, is hitting the headlines.

We have consistently argued for additional funding for social care in Oxfordshire, and we will continue to do so. However, there must also be a culture change amongst all of us. Many of our community bumping places, especially in rural areas, are going due to the stopping of public bus services and the closure of pubs or post-offices. This means we have less opportunity to mingle with our neighbours, unless we specifically go out of our way to do so. This shrinking of our social infrastructure is having a huge impact on how we interact. All the money in the world will not buy a non-existent workforce. Care and caring needs to be part of all of our job descriptions.