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16th November 2021

Nothing new for care workers, but at least it shines a light on what they do

Abi Spence’s verdict on part one of the BBC programme: Inside the Care Crisis with Ed Balls.

Inside the Care Crisis, is there anything those in the sector can take away from the programme?

In short…no. Harsh? Not really. This programme isn’t for you. But it does do something important, shines a spotlight on the sector for those who don’t have much of an idea about the work carers do.

I’m not going to lie. I usually shy away from watching any dramas, films or documentaries featuring social care. Mainly because I can’t help but assess it from a regulatory perspective, but I want to see what the angle is with this one.

What’s it about?

Ed Balls, former Labour MP and former shadow chancellor has been given complete access to a family run provider with four care homes. When I say complete access…I mean Ed is doing the do. We see him complete basic training, and under supervision performed tasks and even stay at the home.

Don’t forget Ed was a politician. He’s had access to communities, and I have no doubt is familiar with care homes, his mother has vascular dementia and lives in a specialist home in Norwich.

Yes, it’s hard work Ed

Whilst we see Ed settle in, we watch him undertake some aspects of basic training. You can see the realisation that it isn’t as easy as it looks to ensure people are being treated with dignity and respect. Later in the programme he comments to his sister how ‘subtle and delicate’ care needs to be.

Themes start to emerge at the once grand hotel now St Cecilia’s Care Home .

COVID Crisis

We see Ed taken to the second floor which served nine months previously as the COVID wing of the home. A tearful manager clearly affected by the trauma of the pandemic recalls how over a terrible two-week period in 2020, 10 residents lost their lives.

The manager says: ‘I don’t know we just want to save everybody’ with tears in her eyes. ‘There is constant reflection on what you have done... we have to get it right.’

Frank’s story

Ed goes on to meet 90-year-old Frank who has dementia. Frank displays distress which can be challenging. The tragedy is not only that his health is giving way to dementia, but his 1-1 care has been removed due to funding and it transpires he has had multiple falls from bed since its withdrawal.

I try and stay focused rather than dissect the falls. It has already annoyed me that whilst Ed was supporting Frank to eat, he intermittently forgot himself and pulled the spoon back to chat.

Dementia Provision

We now go to a specialist dementia provision next. Again, I close off my CQC eyes and focus down on the programme. A young carer called Cameron is 19. We watch him support an older woman’s personal care. It’s an uncomfortable watch. I feel it’s too much to have the camera’s around but putting the spotlight on Cameron – we can see how he shows care and respect.

Ed wants to know how we can keep people like Cameron in social care and not lose them to higher paid NHS jobs? Well Ed… we all have an idea!

There are moments of the stark reality, empty beds mean money is beyond tight. Carers feel undervalued, caring is a 24-hour skilled job which deserves a lot more of everything. Respect, money, and progression. Earlier Alison, one of the carers, tells Ed how it is, ‘we are nothing are we? You don’t need to go to university to work in care, but we are skilled.’

Final moments

Ed has a reunion with his own mother along with his sister after months apart because of the pandemic. I think the experience made that hug he gave her a little tighter. An appreciation of the care a little more thoughtful… and Ed your rendition of ‘Jerusalem’ wasn’t that bad.

Further Information

Want to watch Inside the Care Crisis with Ed Balls? Head to the BBC iPlayer now.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Abi Spence

Registration and Inspection Specialist

Abi has worked for and with Government agencies relevant to social care for the past 12+ years. Primarily with the Department of Health, Social Services Inspectorate, Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and since its inception the Care Quality Commission (CQC). As part of this long involvement Abi has developed a wide and detailed understanding of relevant issues and has worked closely with stakeholders such as people that use services, carers, providers, local government, the Department of Health, Ofsted and the Audit Commission. Read more

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