The heartbreaking reality of the social care crisis has been laid bare in a new BBC documentary that followed the lives of four Somerset families struggling to survive after years of cuts.
Responding to the broadcast of the first of the two part Panorama documentary, Crisis in Care, Unite said the government cannot continue to ignore the impact of austerity on those reliant on the social care system.
The documentary followed four desperate families over the course of a year in Somerset, which has one of nation’s fasted growing elderly populations.
Somerset’s council spends 42p in every pound raised through council tax on social care, but with local authority budgets cut by nearly two thirds by central government since 2010, services – as at councils across the country – are being run on a shoestring.
Bleak and disturbing, the film featured 37-year-old mother of triplets Martine, crippled with arthritis and cared for by her husband, who has to work after waking up hourly through the night to look after her, as well as Rachel who cares for her mum with dementia but cannot receive respite care because the local care centre is facing closure.
Meanwhile elderly dementia and encephalitis sufferer Michael talked about committing suicide as his visibly strained wife tried to brush his comments off, while 60-year-old Paul, who has learning difficulties, was stranded in an obviously unsuitable care home following his mother’s recent death.
Overworked, understaffed and disheartened social workers were also filmed making impossible decisions on an ever shrinking budget – knowing that whatever choice they made was going to leave someone in misery.
Unite assistant general secretary for the public sector, Gail Cartmail, said the film exposed the “desperate human pain” caused by the government’s prolonged attacks on vital services.
“The government has been warned time and again that its ceaseless cuts to local authority funding have very real and painful consequences for people. Now that it has been laid bare to them, it cannot ignore the social care crisis a moment longer,” said Cartmail.
“Every single MP, who has voted through the Conservative’s austerity agenda, must now hang their head in shame at the realisation that their actions have caused and continue to cause desperate human pain.”
Cartmail added, “That not one of the candidates for Conservative leadership has yet put forward any programme for how the most vulnerable in our society is cared for is also a shameful failure to understand how tattered our public services have become under their party’s stewardship.
“This has to end. The UK is the fifth biggest economy on the planet. We can and should find the money to treat our vulnerable with dignity and fairly reward those who care for them too.”