Sorry we cannot pay carers properly; we have to train trolley pushers instead

Matt Hancock celebrated what should, according to The Guardian, have been his last day in office with two press releases. The first “Carers Action Plan 2018 – 2020” looked at the progress made in supporting carers since the plan was put in place a year ago.  The second chucks £20M at helping the NHS train entry-level staff – something it is quite capable of doing for itself.  

Everyone in the country, except in Whitehall, knows that social care is underfunded as a whole and relative to the NHS. Within that carers are under-rewarded with the result that there are too few and acquiring the necessary skills cannot be funded. Carers do not need platitudes, they need money.

One has to wait until p.20 of the review document to reach “Financial support” and all one gets there is:

“2.17 The Department for Work and Pensions will ensure that benefits for carers (including Carer’s Allowance and Universal Credit) meet the needs of carers and support employment for those carers who are able to work.  

2.18 The Department for Work and Pensions will review and improve the information and signposting available to carers who visit Jobcentres to seek support in finding employment.”

There is also a bit about encouraging greater flexibility and generosity by those businesses that employ part-time carers, i.e. volunteers looking after friends or relatives alongside paid employment.  Some people would call that “passing the buck”. 

The government does not even fund holidays for volunteer year-round carers as a charity in Norfolk does.

One of the most heart-rending areas of social care is that provided by young carers, i.e. children who have to prepare themselves for school in the morning and then do the shopping and housework as well as taking care of disabled, or otherwise handicapped, relatives at home.  Imagine the stress involved all year round and the difficulty of creating a normal life thereafter. What progress in supporting them? Sections 3.1 – 3.4 boil down to saying that the DHSC will try to find out who these young carers are. Beyond that, not a penny will be spent.

On the other hand, a glimmer of light may perhaps be glimpsed in the next two paragraphs but again it is not cash for carers just more employment for civil servants:

“3.5 The Department for Education is undertaking a review of Children in Need, which includes young carers, to understand the challenges these pupils face and the support that best improves their educational outcomes, both in and out of school. The findings from the review will inform how best to support Children in Need in order that they achieve their full potential.

3.6 The Learning and Work Institute (LWI) and the Department for Work and Pensions launched customer information materials setting out the rules for students claiming Carer’s Allowance in September 2017. The impact of this activity will be evaluated and consideration given to further activity in due course.”

I will not weary you with more of this one year on review. Suffice to say it is claptrap.  Compare it though with the other press release of the day: “£20 million funding to help 10,000 young people into NHS careers.” The Prince’s Trust will add £7M so we are looking at £2,700 per school leaver to acquire the skills they should have gained at school.  Obviously the NHS, like any other large employer should train the young people they take on. That is a regular part of employment: why should the government suddenly fork out another £20M to do it for them at the same time as denying any further cash to professional social carers or even the kids providing care on top of their school work.

Furthermore, why should entry level NHS catering staff and trolley pushers need further numeracy and literary skills? One does not need A level English to read a menu. And job application skills? By the time they are on this programme, they already in the NHS. And how will the benefits of this expenditure be evaluated? The press statement makes no reference to that but we get a clue from this: the “Health Education England has already worked in partnership with The Prince’s Trust to run 250 pre-employment programmes, helping over 1,000 young people find work in healthcare across the country.” That is a whole government department and the Prince’s Trust delivering programmes each of which has as many as four people on it. Now that’s what I call productivity.

Nick Stace, UK Chief Executive, The Prince’s Trust, has a neat line in irony and concluded: “We believe that when young people succeed, our country succeeds and this is a great example of what that can mean in reality.”