Unsung heroes and heroines…
I was recently asked to name a person who inspires me as part of a little interview exercise. Me, being me, I interpreted the rules creatively and named people not a person, the people I currently work with in the caring ‘industry’. No doubt exists in my mind that these people are unsung heroes and heroines who give so much for what is far too often so little reward. This is not to say caring for people, vulnerable people, is un-rewarding in itself but more that the sacrifices people are asked to make are too great and should not be asked of any worker, be they in a profession they love or loath; being caught between financial penury and exhaustion and illness brought on by a deeply unbalanced ‘work/life’ existence are not things that should be an issue in our modern, supposedly, ‘civilised’ society. For example, nobody should be asked to choose between work and seeing their personal relationships put under strain or to choose between scraping by and seeing their social life dwindle into nothingness. All-to-often staff end up effectively paying to work in the industry due to travel costs and other factors; all too often I hear of people being pushed to the limits of human endurance, exhausted by a physically and emotionally demanding job with ridiculous hours piled on-top and then, of course, they end up being ill, increasing the burden on others and even here I am barely scratching the surface of the industry-wide issues that exist.
It is however typical of our media that they are interested in these issues only when things go wrong, never mentioning the sterling and worthy work done in care every single day; it is however, sadly a constant battle many fight against the odds of a poorly run and ethically disoriented industry. The implication of the stories like the one circulating today regarding Serco is clearly that it is a few ‘bad apples’ that spoil the broth but nothing could be further from the truth; it is the broth itself that is already noxious and mouldy. The underlying cause of the much-touted ‘crisis in care’ is the private ownership of care companies and the consequent drive to maximise profits; the rest of the world be damned and until this boil is lanced, tragedies will continue to happen and good people, service users and staff will continue to suffer. Private enterprise simply has no place in the healthcare sector at all; too much is at stake for things to be left to the untamed whim of the market and no matter how ‘different’ agencies intend to be they are all, inevitably, at some point caught in the privatisation race-to-the-bottom and to maximise profit.
Radical times demand radical measures and the solution for service users and staff ultimately ends up being the same thing. If you want to solve the ‘crisis in care’ the only viable, sustainable solution is to drive the market and private ownership out of the industry altogether. A National Care Service is the only way forward as a fully integrated part of a National Health Service rescued from the yawning abyss of privatisation by a Labour government that celebrates the virtues and underlying ethos of public service. I hope I live to see the day when our Party, being true to its great radical socially transforming traditions, can make this a reality and finally all the unsung heroes and heroines I have met in the last 7 months get the recognition they deserve.