1.6 million heroes! COVID-19 and the care sector

In every village, town and city, 1.6 million amazing individuals are looking after the most vulnerable members of our community. The importance of this statement has never been more significant than it is today, as the country faces the greatest public health crisis in our lifetimes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are, of course, referring to the 1.6 million social care workers supporting the elderly, the infirm, the disabled and those with learning difficulties.

We are, respectively, the CEO and an independent trustee of The CareTech Foundation, which has a clear remit to champion social care. The Foundation exists to support those in care and those supporting those in care. We were established and funded by CareTech plc, one of the largest providers of care to those with learning difficulties. CareTech plc staff support almost 6,000 children and adults up and down the country. Like other care workers across the nation, these staff are dedicated, hardworking, professional and with a huge array of incredible skills. That is why so many of us entrust our loved ones to their care – because we know that they can support them better than we can.

It has been a privilege to see how the staff team at CareTech plc – like those in care establishments across the country – have responded to the huge challenges of Coronavirus. These staff are ensuring that those often most at risk from the virus are as safe as they can possibly be. These incredible care workers are putting the interests of those for whom they care ahead of their own day in and day out. Their efforts are, quite simply, extraordinary. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. Not only are they doing a superb and vital job but they are doing one that the vast majority of us are ill-equipped and/or unwilling to do.

As in awe as we are of the contribution that care workers are making in the face of the current situation, we are not surprised. Through the work of the Foundation and our own personal experiences, we have been able to see so many examples of how those in the care sector represent the very best of us. Being a care worker is for so many a labour of love, a privileged position to help others, an opportunity to leave work at the end of the day knowing that you have made others’ lives so much richer and better. Care workers do not do what they do because their work is highly paid. They do not do it for the societal status that it conveys upon them. They do it because they care. The clue really is in the name.

Unfortunately, we know that individual care workers, their families and their communities will struggle during these difficult times. That is why we have taken steps to ensure that the Foundation’s Staff Hardship Fund and its Community Grant Fund remain open and accessible to all in need. As trustees and a staff team, we will also work as hard as we can to deal with applications promptly so that help gets to those in need without delay. The Foundation has also signed up to the London Funders commitments to our grant beneficiaries, recognising that as a funder we have a significant responsibility to the charities we fund – and the people they employ – and this is a time when we must stand with the charitable sector when their work is even more critical than ever.

Thankfully, the Government has recognised the vital efforts of care workers at this time by identifying them as key workers. Our country will never be quite the same after COVID-19. We hope that one long-term benefit will be that the Government, and society more generally, will finally fully appreciate the profession of social care (because that is what it is) and properly recognise the status of this vital skilled workforce.

In the meantime, the Foundation, its staff and its trustees will continue to #ChampionSocialCare. We invite you all to do the same. Now, more than ever before, we have the opportunity to take stock of our lives and of the society in which we live and to recalibrate. We must never again take our 1.6 million care workers for granted. We must accord them the respect and thanks that we rightly give to our NHS workers. The future of our society depends upon them – perhaps our own futures will depend upon them.

A joint blog with CareTech Foundation trustee Nicholas Cheffings first published at www.caretechfoundation.org.uk