Politicians are ‘ignorant about social care’ and don’t value staff skills

Most politicians are ignorant about social care, according to
three-quarters of the 3,000 social care workers surveyed by
Community Care earlier this month as part of our election 2005

An even greater proportion believe social care workers are
overlooked when politicians talk about the “public sector”
workforce more generally.

A separate poll of 2,000 members of the public found that just 13
per cent think senior politicians have confidence in the skills and
professionalism of the people who work in the sector.

More than one-third of the public think social care will not exist
as a separate discipline in five years’ time, whoever wins the
election. However, opinion among those working in the sector is
more divided on this issue.

The image of social care in the media – with its focus on child
protection failures, violent mental health patients and abuse in
residential care – is also seen as being almost entirely negative.
Nine out of 10 social care workers agree that media representation
of social care damages morale in the sector and makes it more
difficult to recruit and retain staff.

There is also concern about the effect this has on clients. More
than 70 per cent of social care workers think that the way
politicians and the media talk about social care stigmatises
service users, potentially putting them at risk.

A workforce analysis for Community Care’s campaign by Sue Balloch,
professor of health and social policy at the University of
Brighton, says that social care still remains far from being a
central election issue.

As in previous election campaigns, public pronouncements are being
dominated by issues relating to law and order – particularly
immigration, and terrorism – and cutting back public expenditure,
she says.

Balloch adds that, with women still making up most of the social
care workforce, there is a skills crisis as an increasing number
are tempted by better paid and lower pressure jobs in retail,
leaving overseas and agency staff to fill the gaps.

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