Stourbridge didn’t have any speakers at conference this year (Liverpool, 25-28 September). However, local councillor Cathy Bayton – our friend and delegate for neighbouring Dudley South CLP – spoke about adult social care. Here is her insightful contribution:
I see at first hand the crisis hitting adult social care. As a councillor at surgeries, families raise with me their very real concerns about the standard of care their loved ones receive, and as a trade unionist I see staff under paid and exploited with appalling working terms and conditions.
Conference, it is time to take social care out of the market place and put the needs of service users at its heart. Since 2010, Dudley MBC has seen a loss of £27 million in real terms in spending on people. Demand has risen for services, with a population increase among 65–84 year olds of 11%, and among over 85s of 25%. What does that mean for services? Janet, a Dudley South CLP member, told me her 89 year old mother-in-law who has dementia has been attending a day centre run by a national charity four days a week. This gives her independence, stability and stimulation, and her family the peace of mind that she is cared for. The cost of this service is set to increase to £35 per day! This is to offset the funding cuts to the charitable sector inflicted because of this government’s continued ideological attack on local government. Dudley Council – a Labour controlled council – should not be in the position of having to cut services to the most vulnerable in our society.
Now lets consider the staff in this sector. Toxic zero hours contracts, fixed term and temporary contracts, less than the minimum wage when you calculate travel time and sleeping-in time, and – following the uprating of the minimum wage across the care sector – terms and conditions are being slashed. The removal of occupational sick pay, loss of shift allowances, removal of car allowances and reduction in holiday to the statutory minimum… Conference, we need a Labour government to put value back in care.
I call on the next Labour government to put a halt to this race to the bottom, to give our vulnerable and frail adults dignity and care, and those who care for them the professional credibility and value that they deserve. I also urge the leadership to seriously research the positive impact an unconditional basic income would have on the lives of these staff.