Friday, 29 April 2011

Delivering care

Immediately before working in social care I spent a long summer working for Royal Mail. Most of my routes were in a semi-rural area and despite my anxiety that I was wasting my newly achieved 2:2 it was looking back probably the most relaxing enjoyable job I have ever had; even the occasional rainy days weren't so bad.

Hearing stories about Royal Mail these days I wonder how much the job has changed, in particular I wonder about one of my former colleagues who was always cheerful and always smiling as he simply loved the job. I hope that's still the case, or else he's somewhere else where he's enjoying work, but reading this article in the Guardian about the poor conditions and low-pay within the privatised and liberalised postal service in Holland I do worry what the future holds for employees such as my old colleague.

I mention this all, not by means of reminiscence as I currently grind out a day-time living in the call-centre and nocturnal existence writing essays on research methodologies, but because the conclusion of the article struck a chord:

In this competition the power lies with the few, whose priority is cheapness, rather than the many, whose priority is regularity and universality; cheapness wins, and it is the postal workers who suffer.

Such a passage could easily be applied to care workers. Since the NHS and Community Care act created the purchaser/provider split local government commissioners have prioritised cheapness driving down the cost of both residential and non-residential care. In a labour-intensive industry it has been workers who have paid the biggest price.

Should we worry? Yes. Well-paid and well-respected staff members contribute to a better service. Another reason is that social care is up there at the vanguard having for a combination of reasons moved furthest, fastest when it comes to liberalising welfare markets. The question we really need to ask is do we want to see the social care model replicated in the NHS?

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