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.
- Helpers could earn ‘care credits’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Carers could earn ‘credits’ towards own future care (independent.co.uk)