Working in social care is boring, thankless & unenviable – sign up today!

Neil Crowther

I felt increasingly angry and frustrated reading this piece by the comedian Jo Brand in the Independent this morning. It seems unlikely to have been written simply at the author’s own initiative and hence is probably connected to wider campaigns. The article has good intentions – seeking better status, pay and conditions for people who work in care and support. But, even if unthinking, by painting people who draw on support as a burden or depicting care work as intrinsically unfulfilling (‘thankless’ ‘arduous’ ‘boring’ ‘unenviable’) it seems unlikely to help. The truth of the matter is that the low status accorded to care workers derives from the low status accorded to people who draw on care and support and in turn to supporting people to live their lives. Reinforcing such thinking helps no one.

People who draw on care and support and their families, and people who work in care and support, who may also draw on it, have a shared interest in winning both an uplift in government investment and changes to the way local councils commission care. Guided by the principle of ‘reciprocal dignity’, the goal should be a win-win, not one of gaining traction for worker rights off the back of stigmatising the people who rely on care and support. I think the US campaign Caring Across Generations does it really well in this video, by centrering on relationships, love and reciprocity:

How might people who work in social care and their backers make the case for improving the pay and conditions in a way that accords with #socialcarefuture’s vision and values? I’ve had a go here:

“We all want to live in the place we call home, with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for each other, doing what matters to us. Social care exists to ensure that everyone can look forward to this, providing support to do so if we or someone we care about have a disability or health condition during our lives. As people who work to support others to live their lives, it is an aspiration we share for ourselves and our families, and it is what we hope our support can help people to achieve and maintain. But decades of underinvestment by successive governments and the way local councils fund social care make that harder and harder. Our pay and conditions, often the National Minimum Wage and zero hours contracts, coupled with the way councils commission social care by ‘time and task’ make it almost impossible to provide support to people in the way we would like to without it becoming impossible for us to make even a basic living. We are forced to provide only ‘life and limb’ support in very short timeframes, with little time left to attend to the things that matter most to all our wellbeing – a life with meaning, purpose and good relationships.

That’s why we all have an interest in changing this, investing in social care to ensure that we can look forward to a decent life for each other, whether we or a loved one requires support, or we are involved in offering it. Ensuring that people who work in social care enjoy fair pay and decent terms and conditions is a crucial building block towards a brighter social care future.”

As always, welcome others views and ideas, Neil

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