It’s time for the Welsh Government to #MakeCareFair

Sarah Rees reports on how the care sector in Wales is in crisis, and why the Government needs to make care fair. 

Carers are the glue that holds our society together. Like a strong adhesive, they keep us connected and support us through the ups and downs of life. 

But this invisible network of people who provide care and support for others, including parents, unpaid carers and the childcare and social care workforce, faces a number of sticky issues. 

It’s no secret that the care sector in Wales is in crisis. The majority of care and support work across the country is provided by unpaid carers, with many struggling and in need of additional help. 

There are four specific actions the Make Care Fair campaign are calling for Ministers to take. 

A lack of affordable childcare means many parents are unable to work or increase their hours. Pay and conditions for the childcare and social care workforce are forcing many to leave the sector, creating a high staff turnover rate and gaps in provision.  

Each part of the care crisis is connected. Unpaid carers are propping up a failing social care system. Social care and childcare workers are underpaid and undervalued, leading to high staff turnover rates and gaps in provision, which prevents unpaid carers and parents with childcare responsibilities from accessing support. Gaps in social care provision are leading to delays in patients being discharged from hospital, putting even more pressure on our NHS.  

This crisis is not affecting everyone in society equally. Women are more likely to be working as carers, to be taking care of children, or to provide unpaid care and support for others.

Syniadau uchelgeisiol, awdurdodol a mentrus.
Ymunwch â ni i gyfrannu at wneud Cymru gwell.

Women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are overrepresented in the most insecure and lowest-paying social care roles, and parents of disabled children are finding it particularly difficult to source appropriate childcare.  

While the challenges are significant, there are also huge opportunities. That’s why WEN Wales, backed by Oxfam Cymru and four other influential steering group members, is launching the #MakeCareFair campaign. 

The campaign is being launched  during Carers’ Week: which highlights the challenges unpaid carers face and celebrates their contribution to our society. 

It’s vital that the Government recognises and values unpaid care work appropriately

Too often, carers – of all kinds – see their efforts go unrecognised and unrewarded. But the Welsh Government have the chance to put things right, by prioritising investments in affordable, high-quality childcare and social care, in order to effectively tackle poverty and inequality and improve the overall resilience and wellbeing of our society.  

There are four specific actions the Make Care Fair campaign are calling for Ministers to take. 

The first is  for strategic investment in care to reduce income inequalities for paid and unpaid carers and boost the economy. This isn’t just an investment in care: it’s an investment in our collective wellbeing and all of our futures. 

Secondly, the Government must ensure that social care and childcare workers benefit from sector-wide entitlement to a real living wage, alongside better opportunities for career progression and more support for their mental health and well-being. It’s unacceptable that people charged with looking after our nearest and dearest face poverty as a consequence of caring. This injustice must be ended. 

Syniadau uchelgeisiol, awdurdodol a mentrus.
Ymunwch â ni i gyfrannu at wneud Cymru gwell.

Thirdly, Ministers must extend Wales’ existing Childcare Offer to all children from the age of 6 months, whatever the employment status of parents. Right now, too many parents are locked out of the labour market and pushed into poverty due to unaffordable and inaccessible childcare. Childcare is basic economic infrastructure and should be viewed as such. 

Finally, it’s vital that the Government recognises and values unpaid care work appropriately. Caring, whether it is paid or not, is work: skilled work that can be demanding and difficult Work that you can never clock off from. Ministers should recognise it as such.  

Fundamentally, we need to see a step-change in Wales on action on care. Because without carers, who would care for our elderly parents and grandparents as they age? Who would care for our disabled siblings and children, giving them the support they need to thrive? Who would comfort our sick and dying loved ones, providing a gentle touch and a listening ear when they need it most? 

The Welsh Government must act now to Make Care Fair: it simply cannot allow the glue that binds us all together to become irreversibly unstuck.

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Sarah Rees is Head of Oxfam Cymru and oversees Oxfam’s policy, advocacy, campaigns and communications in Wales.

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