SWU Chair Carys Phillips Speaks at the campaign launch rally for “Our NHS – Born in Wales” with the People’s Assembly Wales

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An All-Wales campaign for properly publicly funded Health and Social Care support: reverse privatisation, reverse cuts, and fair pay for NHS staff

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Speakers at the campaign launch rally for “Our NHS – Born in Wales” this evening will include leading trade unionists, health campaigners, disabled people’s rights campaigners, social care and support and more! SWU Chair Carys Phillips will be one of the speakers. There will also be a closed Zoom discussion following the rally at 8PM where the campaign is inviting all interested parties to come along and have their say. You can register for the event here.

Today on the 5th of July 2022 the NHS is 74 years old, hence this is the launch date of the new “Our NHS – Born in Wales” campaign. Social care does not have an official birthday, but it too was formed in 1948 with the introduction of the National Assistance Act. 

Nothing has changed since then in the sense that social care remains undervalued, underfunded, and was NEVER free at the point of delivery.

Social Workers are trained to understand the impact of social policy. Both health and social care workforces have witnessed the impact of a decade of austerity on their workplaces, employment conditions, and in society. Over this time Social Work has experienced a growing managerialist response: domineering, enforcing cultures of compliance and silencing an increasingly demotivated workforce. Whistleblowing in the NHS and Local Authorities has always been an unwelcome act and has often been career ending, from Alison Taylor who was sacked for highlighting the abuse in the North Wales Children Home scandal to anaesthetist Dr Stephen Bolsin at the Bristol Royal infirmary whose actions as a whilstleblower exposed the avoidable deaths of an estimated 170 children – he left to work in Australia!

Social care has endured no less than 12 Government White Papers and 5 independent Reviews during the last 20 years, with the most robust being published in 2011. This was The Dilnot Report and it coincided with the coalition government’s decision to shrink the welfare state.

In Wales, the Barnett formula increases the austerity already being experienced by an impoverished population, with legacies of higher health as well as social care needs as a direct result of industry, poverty, and rurality. The impact was viscerally described as a ‘disgrace –a social equality and economic disaster’ in 2018 by Professor Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty in the UK. This awful reality existed prior to COVID-19.

The comparisons of Health and Social Care and their inter-related nature are fused, yet the funding mechanisms remain as they did 74 years ago! The NHS is free at the point of delivery and people are charged for Social Care, a sector that has been privatised and commodified since the 1990’s. NHS services for those with learning disabilities have been privatised – with special schools, private hospitals. Three Welsh citizens were in Winterbourne View. The NHS Assessment Treatment unit in Cardiff saw the son of the Chief Executive ‘given’ a job that had hitherto not existed, and we only know about this because he is now in jail for a sexually motivated murder of a neighbour. Wales has a problem.

The political tension in Wales is obvious, with a defensive Labour Government masking the reality of a failing NHS – a sad example of this being the treatment of Ann Clwyd whose husband was neglected in the UHW and the subsequent criticism of her personally by the then First Minister – only serves to highlight the real danger of a failing NHS. Unfortunately, it seems to have further deteriorated since then with the Cwm Taf Maternity Scandal (SAB Wales Chair) and the Betsi Cadwaladr (tragic avoidable scandal / no improvements). Despite HIW being described as ‘not fit for purpose’ it has continued – both HIW / CIW are accountable to minsters. We have 6 health boards and 22 Local Authority areas, and this continues to be a political problem that is ignored – 22 different ways of working and isolation of the already demoralised workforce.

The Welsh Government has accepted that Social Care is now in crisis:

“A lack of care staff in the community has led to delays in discharging patients from hospital and can lead to patients being admitted to hospital whilst waiting for homecare to be arranged.”

Sally Warren, Director from The King’s Fund wrote a blog about Sajid Javid’s health and social care to-do list when he became the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care:

“Before Covid-19, the health and care workforce was facing a crisis, with high levels of vacancies, turnover, and stress and the past 18 months has only made this worse, with an exhausted workforce. A comprehensive workforce plan will need to look at international recruitment, training and development of staff, and workplace culture and practices.”

The Social Workers Union (SWU) stands in solidarity with the NHS workers calling for a 15% fair pay deal – this was before the cost of living crisis and joins the clarion call for fair pay, a properly funded social care system, and an aligned approach to Social Care and Health Care – where needs and risks are pooled in public funding. History will, I believe, demonstrate this is the right thing to do and the time is now. Thank You.