Who are the experts?


By Manon Williams.

I am not often shocked. I view myself as a woman of the world and I’ve been lucky enough to see a little of the world. I’ve negotiated deals with multinational company CEOs, Zulu chiefs and grannies wanting a raffle ticket on the cheap because they’d quite like that luxury pamper-hamper on offer. However, I felt my heart pounding as I listened to a presentation from a GP about the roll-out of health services in Wales and his take, as a local health professional, on the fallout from health board re-organisation.

The fact that almost floored me (thank goodness for strong chairs) was that the GP out-of-hours rate in Wales is £53 per hour. Feel free to correct me, and him, if we’re wrong. Racing through my mind was that Carers’ Allowance is £55.55 per week if you care for someone for 35 hours a week or more.

And let's not forget, to get your £55.55 bonanza payment you mustn't be in full time education (21 hrs a week or more, which excludes most students) nor earn £100 a week post tax. Hands up if you would take a job on those rates and if you would bother trying to better yourself through education knowing that studying meant you would be worse off financially?

And woe betide you if you try to claim other benefits as well, the DWP will probably try to take Carers’ Allowance off you. Even though you are a proven expert, probably through chance not choice, in the care of the person you care for. Medication, sorted. Incontinence pad, sorted. Getting up three times a night and I’m completely knackered, sorted. No money to pay the gas bill, erm. Giving up your life and having little or no support, sorted. 

If you aren’t sure about the value of carers to Wales, consider this:

£7.72 billion per annum is saved in Wales because of the care that carers provide (University of Leeds and Carers UK research, 2011).

“Saved”, yeah, right. Yes, it’s crazy that we’d expect the statutory and third sector health and social care services to step in and provide this pound value of care, but what if they had to?

Let’s consider a few hours, between 1 and 4pm tomorrow, when all carers in Wales say, “Enough already. I’m off to live my life, do what I really want to do and you – statutory and third sector health and social care services – have to just deal with it.”

Do you hear that grinding, nails-down-a-chalkboard screech?

That is that sound of reality, the sound of community care coming to a halt. It will never happen because carers will never give up on those they care for. And the state knows that. And the state knows it cannot deliver the personalised (ie based on assessment of need) and community (ie Aberdaron isn’t anywhere near Aberdare) agenda it has to make happen.

Wales can’t do it without the unfaltering, almost unconditional support of the health and social care sector. There are a great many good people in that sector and they must, must be supported to do what is best for communities. It is not about money for carers – they don’t mind who pays for and delivers services, it is the quality and equitability that matter - and welfare benefits are a means to an end. “Give us the recognition we deserve”, is the cry.

And so to collaboration. All well and good, but the oft-mentioned ‘Berlin Wall’ between health and social services is still graffiti-ridden and far from coming down. The sledgehammers are being built in the forge of time and trust. The third sector has made in-roads, but its house is not quite in order and it is as guilty of rhetoric-over-action as the statutory sector it seeks to blame.

There is a way, and its roots are strong and growing. It is growing in the local starting compost of goodwill and needs an injection of national political will, with a mind to piling on the good stuff (not manure) to ensure full and productive growth. Who wouldn’t invest in proper, well-planned community health and social care when it means saving almost £8 billion a year?