Social Care- The Forgotten Public Service

My daughter’s school sent her home with a newsletter last week. In her class, they are currently learning through the theme of “people who help us”. They were asked to come into school on showing day with something to represent a person who works to help people. The examples given were of a policeman and a fireman.

Now, I agree, the police and fire services are essential in society. But it struck me that if you’re lucky, you could go through life and never encounter a police officer or a fire officer in a professional capacity. Is this true for health and social care workers?

What are the chances of making it through this life without requiring getting ill and meeting doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and health support workers?

And what are our chances of shuffling off this mortal coil without a time of disability where we may need social workers, district nurses, chiropodists, podiatrists, wheelchair services, or home care workers?

Personally, I have always felt reassured that our health services are provided through progressive taxation and are provided according to clinical need, strictly without prejudice, and free at the point of need. I wonder whether we will ever be able to say this once private business has crept into the sector, creaming off the lucrative sections and leaving an increasingly underfunded and strained statutory service to deal with our sickest, most vulnerable and poorest.

Social care, which was never free for all, will fare even worse, I fear. My home care ladies are working under incredible uncertainty about their futures. Their service has already been contracted out to the private sector and there is no guarantee for a job for them once that transfer completes. Yet they still show up, and be cheerful, and do their level best to help.

I asked our wonderful Home Care ladies if they wouldn’t mind being the subject of “school showing day”, and we took their picture. They brought in some gloves, an apron, some hand gel and a ‘contact sheet’ and my daughter very proudly showed them to the whole class when she went into the school. My daughter now frequently dresses up as a Home Care lady with all the proper props, and helps dollies or cousins get dressed.

So here is my shout out for the Social Care Service- perhaps lacking the glamour of the cardiac surgeon, and certainly lacking the funding it deserves. Our public services are under attack. Our government has launched an ideological attack on the basis of our welfare state, and the least we owe the workers within it is our gratitude.

March 26th is the Million Voices for Public Services March. I can’t go- I can’t travel that kind of distance. But I urge you to go if you can- there are coaches from each city which have been organised by the public sector unions.

My daughter has come home from school today with a new project title- “Someone who helps my family”. We’re going to ask Nora if we can do it about her. Any lady who listens and brings her own slippers to my house, because she understands how much my carpet means to me is worth a school project, don’t you think?

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