Don’t ever call us unskilled again!

Featured article - 18 September 2020
By Sally Warren, Managing Director, Paradigm

Sally Warren, Managing Director, Paradigm

For many years social care has been underinvested in, undervalued and invisible to many. Many members of the public have been unaware of the importance of social care and how it is a lifeline to millions of people across the UK, from the moment of birth to the moment of death.

We believe that reductions to services and budgets have been largely unnoticed and unchallenged. During the pandemic, a lot of the media and news coverage focused (and continues to focus!) on the NHS and care workers supporting the elderly in care homes. Support workers often remain a hidden workforce.

On 5 August 2020, Paradigm published the report 'Don’t ever call us unskilled again!’ The title is a direct quote from one support worker who was feeling undervalued in February. The report brings you the voices - the experiences, ideas and learning - of 118 support workers (supporting people with a learning disability and/or autism) from across the UK during the early days of the pandemic.

This report highlights the values and humanity that is at the core of the support worker role. Without fuss or fanfare support workers carried on with their jobs to ensure people’s lives were protected. I am humbled by their resilience and commitment and outraged that anyone could describe their work as ‘unskilled’.

Sarah Maguire, CEO of Choice Support

The report also shares some of the ‘Lockdown stories of Gr8Support’ we shared over 103 days of lockdown. Most of these Support Workers are members of The Gr8 Support Movement.

The voices and stories in the report are a moving expression of what good support should always look and feel like. It is their voices that highlight:

  • How they responded during the pandemic with thoughtfulness, creativity and dedication
  • Key messages and 'must haves' for moving forward beyond the pandemic
  • Their plea to be valued and recognised as essential and highly skilled members of the social care workforce, not just now but as society moves forward.

We have learnt and continue to learn extensively from engaging with and listening to these support workers. See below their idea for Getting ready for a Winter with Covid-19, which was published recently. We are holding up their words as a powerful testament to what is possible and should be done as we emerge from the world’s first major pandemic for nearly 100 years.

Social care is on its knees. Many families who are supporting their loved ones are also exhausted. At its worst, social care is in danger of becoming little more than a threadbare safety net. It’s time to reframe the image of social care to value its importance. Millions of citizens in the UK need support to live their lives.

We have hope, we have each other, we have skilled people working in social care – let us build on this together to keep doing what works, embed the newly discovered ways of working and getting rid of what doesn’t work.

It is really refreshing to read something that actually reflects how I feel. The fact it is being published gives me a small amount of hope that someone may take notice of us!

Sam Harrison. Support worker, Integrate Preston

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