Care Credits

Paul Burstow MP, Minister of State for Care Se...

Image by Department of Health via Flickr

Over the weekend, the Paul Burstow announced that he was looking at the system of ‘credits’ where people who volunteer to help older adults and adults with disabilities in exchange for ‘credits’ towards their own care when they are older that can also be ‘cashed’ in favour of family members.

Where to start on this? It sounds wonderful in theory and ties in to the happy, smiley so-called ‘big society’ theme. Let’s all help each other and do pleasant voluntary work. The issues come on a few different strands.

Firstly, it is not entirely voluntary if there is an active reward in place. It is payment by another less obvious (or perhaps clunkily over-obvious) way. Perhaps I have a romanticised view of voluntary work – I have spent a considerable amount of time carrying out voluntary work for the record, and the motivations that might push someone into caring for potentially vulnerable adults is something that has often raised red flags to me.

Secondly, it is absolutely a system that could potentially favour the time (and cash) rich who would have more leisure time to expend on voluntary work.

Thirdly, it could take work away from skilled social care workers and intimates a potentially dangerous ‘anyone can do it’ attitude towards care work as picked up on the Going Public blog over the weekend.

One of the more concerning aspects that I heard about was a report that the Care Minister, Mr Burstow was suggesting that you get more ‘credits’ for carrying out personal care than you would for domestic care.

Now that, was the really frightening part for me.

He suggests that these volunteers would not only be engaged to carry out the tasks that a voluntary organisation might cover today – some befriending, popping out to get some shopping, this is all covered in the current system (on a purely voluntary basis of course), a bit of company and a chat over a cup of tea.

Very different to introduce a ‘personal care’ angle. This is care that should be provided by professionals who are trained and have to adhere to a professional contract. Personal care is not something that anyone who fancies a few extra ‘credits’ can turn up and do. It sounds great on paper but firstly it is a way of shifting the expectations of what the state will provide for older adults and adults with disabilities, it denigrates the experience and training of those who currently carry out this work well – (I know there are A LOT of problems with some care workers but honestly, if you think it is bad now, wait until the volunteers arrive.. and there are a lot of very good care workers as well!), it potentially discriminates against those who, for whatever reason, have not been able to ‘build up’ their credits, either because they have some disabilities themselves, or just have to devote all the possible time they have to raising a family, caring for a family member informally or just, well, working hard to pay the rent/mortgage.

Would this scheme be developed into other areas or professions? Will I get credits against my tax bill if I run a through sums up on a calculator? Will I be able to get my copies of the daily newspaper free because I ramble on a bit on a blog? If I pop into a school and talk about something or other that I know about, will I get credits against a night class?  If I put a plaster on the knee of a kid who falls over in the street, will I get credits towards my prescription costs? I shouldn’t give them any ideas, I guess – but for me, it is a devaluation of the adult social care sector to suggest that ‘anyone can do it’.

This is another erosion of our expectations of what the state will provide for us. Who would honestly believe that any credits achieved now would seriously be honoured by a different government in 20-30-40 years time?

In some ways it is the idea that has been planted in our head that we should assume nothing is sacred as the government chips and chistles away the support for the least able at every level.

Sure, it is the older adults, adults with disabilities, people who are unemployed who will be first,  but the ideology behind the cuts is becoming more and more apparent.

I thought I was a fairly passive, fluffy, pragmatic, ‘let’s all get on and be friends’ type of person and I am, for the most part but I’m really angry with the government now. Really, really angry. I haven’t felt that since I was at school and railing against Thatcher in my highly ideological Marxist phase…

The government is set to destroying the foundations that have taken decades to lay down and it is not something that we should be willing to give up without a fight.

10 thoughts on “Care Credits

  1. I wanted to makes some major post about this, but I can only agree with you – night shift addled brain, sorry – I feel exactly the same way as you, albeit coming from a nursing aspect.

    <blockquote cite="The government is set to destroying the foundations that have taken decades to lay down and it is not something that we should be willing to give up without a fight.“>

    I’m willing to back this. As far as I’m concerned all health and social care in the UK should follow the founding principles of the NHS:

    I’d be willing to fight for these, we all have to fight for these. We can’t let the bastions of British societies be undermined and dismantled by people who I *don’t think* have had to worry about any of the basics in life.

    I apologise for not being more succinct but it’s been a long, hard night. Keep posting CB, I’ll keep commenting when I think I have something to add. I think you might find my latest blog post interesting.


  2. To Full Time Experienced Carers working over 50 hours per week looking after loved ones and family members this is the supreme insult. After years of reviews and reports and Carers Strategy upon Strategy, we are still no nearer to getting proper recognition and remuneration. A starting point would be parity with Foster Carers who get an allowance and fees paid as well as paid holidays etc. The “promise” (from a worthless government) of some vague amount at some undisclosed point in time in the future, does not interest most Full Time Experienced Carers to the sick and disabled. Its an insult to call us “volunteers”.

  3. ” If I pop into a school and talk about something or other that I know about, will I get credits against a night class?”

    I agree with everything you say. But this (above quote) is actually a really good idea 🙂

  4. I suspect those who came up with the policy have little or no experience of actually providing personal care, paid or unpaid, let alone of being reliant on support from careworkers.

    The idea that, if you are a woman with severely impaired mobility who wants help with bathing, you should be willing to let the man next door wander wherever he wants in your home, and take your clothes off too, seems extraordinary to me, and a recipe for abuse. Even where volunteers are well-meaning, the potential for humiliation and unintentional harm is immense – tipping people out of hoists, dislocating limbs etc.

    In any case, previous generations paid their tax and National Insurance, and lived and worked through hardship, in the expectation of getting adequate support when they needed it – a promise often not fulfilled. Why on earth should people seeking ‘care credits’ trust a future government to honour what this government pledges?

  5. Thanks for the comments – I do fear for the implications for those who are already informal carers and there seems to me to be an implied assumption that there will be more placed on them and that we should expect that in the future.
    I think it is about a balancing of expectations as m uch as an actual scheme as there are just too many holes in the idea.

  6. Thanks for your concern CB. I have a problem with your reference to “informal Carers” it implies something loose or unstructured as well as possibly unreliable. This could not be further from the truth for Full Time Experienced Carers, which is what millions of us are, performing personal and other care around the clock week in week out with no protection by Health and Safety and Employment Laws as our counterparts in local authority and private sector employ do. Many of us have years of experience and work full time for the person(s) we care for, rather than the few minutes some operatives are there for who have (in some cases) only just left school or not worked in care at all having come straight from stacking shelves at a supermarket. One supposedly “formal” carer who attended us once could not even put a standard NHS issue wheelchair together let alone be safe pushing someone in it! I could go on, but others will know what I mean anyway.

    • Hi Ians12
      I meant no offence by referring to informal carers it’s just a term of reference I had become used to to differentiate from carers from agencies who are paid to ‘care’. I tended to prefer formal/informal more than paid/unpaid. Partly because I strongly believe that there should be more compensation for family and friends who do carry out the caring roles.
      I agree with you about the quality of care provided and will bear that in mind in future statements.

  7. The “care credit” suggestion is yet another silly, ill thought out idea and I fully agree with all the points you raise. What happens as well, to people who have no “care credits” ? will they be refused care unless they can afford to pay for it themselves?
    Ive been angry for ages about many of their daft suggestions but am also getting scared as more and more is revealed, you just think they are totally bonkers, and its worrying thinking that people whos political ideas/thoughts should ensure they are safely locked away where they cant harm anyone are actually in charge! Its sooo scary !

    • “its worrying thinking that people whos political ideas/thoughts should ensure they are safely locked away where they cant harm anyone are actually in charge!”

      Well, remember the 5th of November?….

  8. The idea of ‘credits ‘ for people who volunteer is good in the way it encourages people to interact with each other and make a positive choice in the use of their leisure time.
    It encourages planning for a time of unknown needs in the future in a non- commercial way. It is a sort of alternative economy in which personal involvement rather than earning power matters, it does not incur taxes, but bring social benefit.

    There is a risk that inappropriate volunteers could abuse the system or commit criminal acts, and the need to protect the vulnerable recipient of the care must be paramount.
    It could be run by or with the advise of a registered voluntary agency who have the experience to choose their volunteers as well as prioritize who could benefit from the work offered. They would have the knowledge to train, assess, supervise and support volunteers, with financial help from the government

    At present the idea is that the work attracting credits is work with older adults and adults with disabilities. As the idea is to encourage a ‘big society’, voluntary work from all in a variety of area should be attracting credits. Lawyers giving advice voluntarily should be just as worthy as people giving personal care, though no less or no more, when it comes to redeeming credits, our basic needs are the same and take the same amount of time. People who view their work as superior and believe that they should be better rewarded have the earning power to buy the care they need.

    The idea however needs to keep the principle of ‘volunteering’ at its centre rather than a cash alternative that is due irrespective of needs in the future.
    The scheme should not entitle the volunteer to X amount of time to be redeemed, but act as a deciding factor for choosing who receives more help in a situation when many people need care, ie: if 2 people who have the same needs, people with credits would be considered before the others.

    Work should be undertaken to find out what should attract credits; would a full time carer attract a huge number of credits? Would some one who wish to volunteer but is not suitable because of disability be excluded from this ‘big society’? Should there be an obligation to find them a voluntary function which matches their limited skills?

    The care given by volunteers must not replace any entitlement to NHS care etc. It must not destroy jobs, we all may need the safety net in place in the UK, and paid workers pay taxes which are sorely needed!

    Credits could be redeemed in fields not related than the one offered, helping in a school should not uniquely entitle one join an evening class for free.
    Credits could be given for voluntary acts such as blood donation, but receiving blood has to be strictly a medical decision.

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