Vic Citarella remembers the days before there was social care
Listening to former premier John Major sounding off about Europe on TV this week prompted a memory – one that could be completely incorrect, but nonetheless its mine. The recollection being that he was credited to be the first senior politician to publicly use the term ‘social care’ back in the 1980s. Anyway this was what was said back then amongst those promoting the standing of residential, day and domiciliary care workers. Those arguing for investment in status, training and recognition and the professionalisation of social care as distinct from social work.
It is now 30 years since Major was Minister of State for Social Security – the most likely time when he would have made a speech about the care sector. In that time since 1986 the cause of professionalising social care has made little progress. It probably peaked with the creation of the General Social Care Council in England in 2001. The code of practice was about social care and the intent was to register domiciliary care workers straight after social workers. By the time the GSCC was closed in 2012 the idea of registering any social care workers was long buried under burgeoning bureaucracy and costs. It remains alive and flourishing in the rest of the UK.
Why is social care in retreat in England? Why did the former Social Care Association struggle with membership? Why do the one and a half million people who work in what we call social care still have low skill, low pay and low esteem standing? Listening to Major again something about his stance on Europe and the NHS made me consider the possible oxymoronic juxtaposition of the words social and care. Like, as in, was he a ‘caring Conservative’?
Consider how far social care is a truth particularly in our times of personalisation and individual care planning. Most people want their care to be private rather than social I suspect. Consider the contradictions in the need for companionship and activity alongside the need to go to the toilet, go to bed, get up, wash, dress and be fed. The one involves groups of people and the other is – or should be – just you and the care worker. Consider many people’s preference to have support rather than care.
Perhaps, with hindsight, it was a mistake to coin the term ‘social care’. Residential, day and domiciliary care had the benefit of less ambiguity, more exactness. It still does – people know what you mean if you say you work in a care home, a children’s home or if you are a Home Help or work in a day centre. Precision in terminology can put pressure on politicians, be understood by the public and attract investment. With that comes professional respect and standing for the practitioner. So out with the Major minor oxymoron of social care and let’s think about the major key alternatives.