Why are care workers deemed ‘low skilled’ when it’s a job not many can do well

(15 August, 2019) Editorials

According to Age UK, the number of over-65s in the country will nearly double by 2035

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The government still hasn’t published a promised paper on the future of adult social care, nor did Theresa May live up to her promise, made back in March, to “put the state-funded system on a more secure and sustainable footing.”

Southwark Council’s cabinet member for finance says not knowing whether key grants will even exist in the next year or so is unprecedented in modern times.

A government consumed by our future relationship with Europe is leaving key decisions about what we want our country to be like falling by the wayside.

In the meantime, our country’s care system is collapsing.

Too many working people, often with young children of their own, are left struggling to help older family members.

Those with capital can see their life savings and family homes all sold off to pay for hugely expensive residential places. Others may be left with patchy provision, or trapped in hospitals they can’t leave because there aren’t enough spaces available.

Despite the gruelling difficulties, Southwark’s adult social care has been very well protected.

We are in a much better position than many in the country, with a council able to use the income it gains from a healthy local economy.

But according to Age UK, the number of over-65s in the country will nearly double by 2035.

As people are living longer, but often with chronic life-limiting conditions, the number needing home help or moving into residential care will continue to grow.

Worryingly, many care staff are EU nationals, and there is widespread concern that current workforce shortages will only get worse as it’s an industry considered “low skilled”.

This means any tightening of migration after we leave the EU, and drop in migration could make it even harder to recruit for these jobs, or see people leave to stay within the bloc.

Anyone who has had the emotionally and physically draining task of caring for a seriously ill or elderly relative will know that not many people are suited to the task – and the skill needed to do it.

By labelling this work ‘low skilled’ and paying to match, we’re saying some of the hardest and most important jobs are the least valued.

That must change – whether we are in the EU or not come the end of October.

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