With just 2 weeks left to the election, the polls are showing no single party is set to secure a majority.
To ensure we make the right choices – for our country, the service users and for those working in care – we need those with the expertise to really understand the differences in policy, and the consequences of the proposed changes, to go out and vote. You are the experts and we need you to help the politicians to make the right choices – by turning up and voting for the policies you want to see delivered.
We know social workers care deeply about the people they work with and the policies that may impact the people they care for, but can feel disillusioned by the reality of politics.
But there are big choices to be made in the ballot box when it comes to how you think welfare should be distributed, what support carers should get, the length of social care visit times and the level of private sector involvement in our public services.
There appears to be commonality, for example, around the need to integrate health and social care across the political spectrum – but there is a significant difference in how each party believes this can be achieved.
On the NHS and social care, Labour and the Greens have pledged to move away from privatisation, with Labour promising to appeal the Health and Social Care Act.
On wider issues, the Greens have promised a £500m investment in adult social care and a dignity code, whereas the Lib Dems have pledged to support the troubled families programme, a national adoption register and £1bn investment in at-home care.
UKIP has echoed the Greens’ Dignity Code pledge, promised £5.2bn investment in social care funding with an increase of £1.2bn a year and pledged to abolish 15 minute time limits on home care visits, a policy also supported by Labour.
UKIP and the Greens surprisingly overlap on several carer-specific policies including increasing the carers allowance, the former pledging an increase of £572 per year and the latter a flat 50% increase. The Lib Dems have proposed a carers bonus of £250 per year and the SNP have promised a non-specific increase. Both Labour and the Lib Dems want the NHS to have a duty to identify carers in order to offer support and the SNP pledge a carers bill for the same reason.
In order to prevent older people from having to sell their homes to pay for social care in later life, the Conservatives and Lib Dems have both pledged to cap social care charges, whereas UKIP have committed to creating a Sovereign Wealth Fund, ring-fenced for social care and funded by the tax profits from fracking.
Votes for women
Like most caring professions, the social care workforce is predominately female, with women making up 73% of the Health and Care Professions Council register of social workers. Women voters are absolutely UK politics’ centre-ground. The polling shows that women are more undecided about who to vote for, more open to political argument and less entrenched in tribal party loyalty than men. But we are less likely to proffer our opinion in the ballot box – 65% of men are sure they will vote, 10% more than women. This mismatch in whether people are determined to vote or not is what RegistHERtoVote is working to change.
We all know why women and public sector workers should vote – it’s the same reason why everyone should vote. Unless you make your voice, your opinion, and your needs heard, no-one will ever listen.
Using our voices
The importance of social care is finally beginning to get some much-needed media attention. But I would like to see more voices in the debate and hear from workers across the NHS and local authority care services so we can better understand the challenges from the frontline.
This is set to be the closest election in living memory. We don’t know what the result will be but we do know that every vote really does matter. Women need to be heard, workers from the public sector need to be heard and that means using our voices and turning up on polling day. Love your vote on the 7 May, so you don’t hate the result on May 8.
Martha Dalton is co-founder of the RegistHERtoVote campaign. To find out more about the dividing lines and to read the political party manifestos click here: www.registhertovote.org.uk/news