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Care workers’ app is ‘too little, too late’, says academic

May 13, 2020

A digital app designed for social care workers – the Care Workforce app – has been criticised as being “too little, too late” by a university academic.

Intended to “unite social care workers” and offer them access to guidance, resources, and information and support relating to mental health and wellbeing from virtual sources during the Covid-19 pandemic, was launched on 6 May by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Alisoun Milne, a professor in social gerontology and social work at the University of Kent, said that although the app was welcomed, the care workforce had bigger needs to be addressed.

“The adult social care workforce constitutes 2.6 million people in the UK working primarily in community settings and care homes for upwards of 18,000 providers,” said Prof. Milne.

“Most social care workers are female and many are low paid. Until very recently they have been shockingly invisible in Covid-19 discussions and in policy responses to Covid-19 pandemic risks; a number have died, many others have become ill.

“Whilst the development of the Care Workforce app is to be welcomed, it does feel like it’s ‘too little, too late’. Its presence shines a light on the absence of any such app before Covid-19. The social care workforce has long been fragmented, variably supported and at risk of ill health; this is not new. However good an app is – and it is something – it is nowhere near as essential as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing and it is a very long way from the things that the care workforce really needs: proper pay and conditions, status, regular access to training, career opportunities and supervision, and respect from the public, employers, policymakers and politicians.

“I hope the app continues to have a role in ‘uniting’ the social care workforce after Covid-19; I also hope that recent recognition that care work is skilled, complex and emotionally demanding contributes to a new deal for social care workers and for the social care sector more widely. If the app helps to deliver these it will have done a good job.”

Prof. Milne’s research interests are in four intersecting areas: social work with older people and their families; mental health in later life; family caring; and long term care. She has received funding from a number of sources including the Department of Health, the NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR), the National Health Service and ageing and caring related charities.

Professor Alisoun Milne

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