The BBC’s Panorama documentary series recently turned its focus to the plight of Social Care in the UK, with a two-part feature ‘Crisis In Care’, delivering a heartfelt expose on the combined impact of our ageing population and a decade of austerity-driven budget cuts.
In such difficult times, finding real solutions for the families and individuals who need them requires great innovation and creativity, while recognising the phenomenal fortitude and wholehearted dedication of those who are providing care for a loved one, and striving to protect their well being.
The creator of Crisis In Care, BBC’s Social Affairs Correspondent, Alison Holt’s decision to follow four families over the course of 10 months, served as a powerful vessel in offering a deeply personal human perspective on the struggles of not only those providing care to a family member, but also on those working within local councils, facing huge financial challenges with limited budgets, binding their hands as they work to support those most in need.
For many, the conventional costs of care, be it residential or at home, can feel dauntingly unattainable, while social care support is limited in its scope. Many find themselves teetering on the brink between qualifying for adequate financial aid and having the means to cover it themselves, and must seek more complex solutions. The needs of such households are modest but crucial; a professional who acts as a carer to a parent, needing support at night so they can avoid crippling exhaustion; a doting relative who cannot manage the physical demands of caring for an incapacitated loved one – such people only require the means to hold onto some quality of life, and the dignity that putting someone else’s needs first should carry.
For this vulnerable demographic, the charity Age UK estimates that there are 1.6 million people in the UK who do not receive sufficient support with their care. It estimates there are another 1.4 million people in need of support that do not receive any at all. This reality paired with the projection from the UK Office For National Statistics that the number of people aged 85 and over is expected to double in the next 20 years, paints a worrying picture. On a more positive note, however, these challenges are driving an upsurge in more innovative approaches to care.
A rise in the role of ‘micro carers’, (self-employed carers who offer part-time support in the homes of those who require it), is helping to plug the gaps somewhat. Care provision agencies like ours are working with those in need to create flexible and feasible solutions, as they navigate the social support system to find the best options available to them. Households are also turning to their community for extra support, developing strategic combinations of care at home, social support, and assistance from local family and friends. In this way, we have the best chance of improving the lives of those who have been let down by current government spending.
Fundamentally, it is the human aspect that must be crucially kept in view. Understanding the heavy emotional and financial burden that falls upon households with care requirements, and continuing to shine a light on their daily realities is key. Oversimplification in the form of spending money only to keep people alive and reducing individuals to statistics is a damaging approach to care, as is allowing those who struggle to be marginalised or swept under the rug. Forging emphasis on the physical and emotional well being of care providers and their loved ones is a healthy and important priority.
The BBC’s Crisis In Care has arrived with timely clout in lending momentum to this crucial recognition, particularly in the current period of political scrutiny. We now look to the government to respond as this focus is turned towards them, with a new Prime Minister imminent, in the hope that unravelling unhealthy bureaucracy and long-delayed social reform becomes the priority as it should have been all along. There are few acts nobler than caring for those unable to care for themselves, and those who do so should be valued, recognised and supported.