Social care leader says plea for Government support ‘falling on deaf ears’

A social care leader says the sector’s plea for Government support and investment is “falling on death ears” as she is made a CBE.

Nadra Ahmed, executive chair of the National Care Association, has been recognised in the New Year Honours list for her services to social care.

She has called on the Government to invest in the “chronically underfunded” sector, which is in crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic fallout and the cost-of-living crisis.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Ms Ahmed, from West Malling, Kent, said: It’s overwhelming and humbling to get a recognition of this kind, especially when I think of all the people who have gone over and above in order to deliver social care services – and I feel quite humble to be accepting it on behalf of all them.”

Ms Ahmed, who has been outspoken about the Government’s failures towards social care, said being made a CBE in that context is “refreshing”.

“I’m not somebody who agrees or tries to soften blows when I think they’ve got it wrong and they have had it wrong quite considerably and I think they’re still getting it wrong,” she said.

In terms of being vocal about the problems facing social care, she said: “What is deeply disturbing for me is that, despite the messages being very clear – and I’m not the only one putting them out there, there are others that are doing that as well – they are falling on deaf ears and I feel like: ‘When is that light bulb moment is going to come in.’

“We’ve got to continue to fight for something that is the fabric of our society that social care delivers within communities (and) to individuals who need the care, not for that one day when it’s an acute problem but that’s ongoing.

“We cannot be silent on it.”

Ms Ahmed also said she feels the industry has been vilified by those in power, who have used blame as a “completely unnecessary” weapon.

“I think there have been moments when people in power have spoken in a way that tries to blame our work force and our providers and that is to mask their own inadequacies.

“It’s to mask their own shortcomings in supporting the vulnerable,” she said.

“We continue to do it despite the challenges we face but people in power – who could’ve made the difference – use the weapon, which is completely unnecessary, of blame to those who are actually delivering.”

Ms Ahmed also said she finds it “very very challenging” that the sector is “almost expected to work in the shadow of the NHS”.

She added: “I’m speaking out much much more about that now by saying: ‘Actually we are akin to the NHS. We are a sister organisation and should be recognised as such and not by what we can do to help the NHS.’

“I think the spotlight has always been on the NHS and what that can do almost plays down what social cares done.

“Without a robust and invested in social care sector, the NHS will continue to fail.

“The role of social care needs to be recognised independently and individually rather than as part of something.”

Ms Ahmed said she has been campaigning for years for the Government to help establish an education pathway to give career gravitas to a sector facing 165,000 vacancies and underfunding.

“I think Government needs to take social care much much much more seriously than they do,” she said.

“I think words are always welcome but now we need the action behind it. Everybody promises to fix social care but nobody does anything.

“The reason social care stands where it is is because there has been a chronic underfunding of social care.

“What are we prepared to pay for the elderly and vulnerable that need that social care service so that we can deliver it? That’s the bit that isn’t being understood.”

Asked if she is hopeful there will be change, she said: “I’m not a pessimist by nature but I think that in order for me to feel confident we need to have an ear that actually listens.”