The Welsh Government decision to include social care as one of five key priority areas for their new economic strategy has been hailed as a “potential game-changer” for the sector.
According to Care Forum Wales, independent care homes and domiciliary care companies are now getting the recognition they deserve for the £3 billion-a-year contribution they help make to the economy and to communities across Wales.
The announcement by First Minister Carwyn Jones was welcomed by the organisation’s chairman, Mario Kreft MBE.
It was, he said, a particularly timely boost when a number of care homes and home care companies were having to close or give up their contracts because they were not financially viable.
Mr Kreft said: “In Wales social care underpins and enables the NHS to function, it provides care for 150,000 people and employs 75,000 people which is over five per cent of the Welsh workforce. Overwhelmingly, their wages are spent in the local communities where they live and work. And their care provision enables others to work – knowing their loved ones are well looked after.
“Between them care homes and nursing homes, have some 23,000 beds – more than double the number provided by the NHS.
“The First Minister’s announcement is a potential game-changer because the Welsh Government, to their credit, have been talking up social care as a sector of national strategic importance for some time.
“There has been a shift in direction since making social care a sector of national strategic importance.
“Now the Welsh Government have gone an important step farther and identified social care as one of the five key pillars of the Welsh economy.
“Care Forum Wales has long believed social care needed to be recognised as an economic priority for Wales because it connects everything that we do.
“Social care is the glue that binds communities together and is fundamentally important to the economic prosperity of communities throughout Wales.
“We need a thriving economy to pay for public services but services have to be maintained even in times of austerity and of course, the vast majority of social care is provided by the private sector and the Third Sector.
“The social care sector pumps £3 billion a year into the Welsh economy but that doesn’t tell the whole story because that figure, big though it is, pales into insignificance when you consider how much the sector saves us as a nation.
“There’s something very Welsh about the whole concept of caring. It’s in our DNA.
“We know about the history of the NHS which is rooted firmly here in Wales but social care is something that also promotes our economy.
“It enables relatives to remain in employment and to keep economically active. By being economically active of course, they’re productive and their sense of health and well-being also benefits.
“Every which way you look at this, that figure of £3 billion is a much smaller figure than the real value to Wales – socially, culturally and economically.
“What we need to see in the future is innovation and by putting social care firmly in the economic portfolio as well as of course, in health and well-being, we are actually starting to tease that out.
“We believe that Carwyn Jones and his government need to be commended for their vision in making this ground-breaking decision because it is a UK first.
“We’ve said for years that we need our leaders to talk up the value and importance of social care, recognising the skill and dedication of the workforce and not to think of the sector negatively as a cost to the nation.
“Social care is an economic positive, always has been and always will be. It needs to be seen as a sector of high status and high value to our society with the people providing the care being properly recognised for their economic value as well as their many other qualities.”