A furore has built in the wake of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s dispiriting budget last week, where NHS staff have been promised a paltry 1% pay rise following the hardest year ever faced by the health service. Questions among staff are now being asked; Where’s our thanks? Where’s the solidarity? Where’s our bleedin’ money? But these questions are nothing new for NHS staff or those workers providing social health care in the community. They’ve been asking those questions for decades, and nobody is rushing to answer.
NHS staff are chronically underpaid, and this trend looks set to continue, even though the Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the extraordinary work done every day by staff. The same can be said for care workers, yet it is the pay rise for NHS staff that dominates the headlines, bolstered by pressure from NHS bosses, unions and a large cross-section of the general public. So where is the support for our care workers? Why is nobody demanding care workers are paid the national living wage (£9.50 per hour)? Why are people who care for the most vulnerable members of our society being allowed to slip into poverty and degradation with nary a word written, or a single question raised in parliament?
We all age, every young person becomes an old person, and hopefully a relatively healthy one, but some are not so fortunate and slip into ill health, infirmity or suffr a lack of mobility. Yet despite this truth of life, caring for someone who needs help every day is still seen as being a less worthwhile occupation than a nurse, teacher or fire fighter. Unfortunately it is the UK’s class system that plays a part in this and not really the current government’s fault, the attitudes were enshrined by previous conservative governments, not even the fourteen years spanning Labour’s years in government could change these long held assumptions. That is why the system is broken and unloved. Nobody wants to take a look through the time window to see how our health changes with age. Most people would prefer not to look. The same can be said of adults living with learning difficulties or mobility issues.
Our compassionate society needs to extend further into understanding the role of carere, and only then will there will be an appetite reform in the public consciousness. Popular policy wins votes, but at the moment reform in the care sector does not gain enough favour with the electorate for the politicians to spend time debating. You can learn more here (10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Carers).
If you think carers are not valued highly enough there are things you can do to help such as signing petitions to secure a living wage for carers, so they can perform their difficult and important jobs, without the worry of financial concerns at home and supporting the initiatives found on Go Fund Me and other crowd funding websites, but as usual the most important thing you can do, even more helpful than sharing this piece on social media, is talk. Tell people what you know and mention it in group conversations. As ever, raising awareness is key.
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Martin Gregory. 2021