CICTAR’s reports are always developed in discussion with partners, with a view to supporting their campaigns for change. This blog, from Unison’s North West region organizer Dan Smith, explains the value of CICTAR’s HC-One report for the work that he does.

Death, Deception and Dividends report: ‘a timely and helpful intervention’

Social care in the UK is in crisis. Nearly 300,000 people are on adult social care ‘waiting lists’ and there are over 112,000 vacancies within the sector. The remaining workforce mostly receive poverty pay and are engaged on precarious zero hour contracts with statutory minimum terms and conditions.

The much-vaunted solution – often promulgated by well-meaning progressive politicians – is that the sector simply needs more funding. While the sector clearly needs additional resources, funding alone will only ever solve half of the problem. Without the structural realignment of how social care is delivered, increased funding will simply give predatory private providers more opportunity to extract greater profit from public contracts.

UNISON North West – the largest public sector union in the North West of England – has prioritised organising within social care for the past 6 years. While we have had significant victories – including winning occupational sick pay for thousands of workers during the pandemic and winning pay rises worth millions of pounds from providers and commissioning authorities – many of these victories are potentially fragile whilst the delivery of social care remains in private hands.

The long-term aim of our organising and campaigning strategy is the public delivery and insourcing of social care. A key tenet of this is securing the support of politicians and policy-makers through raising awareness of the exploitative and predatory nature of social care providers and linking this to the undermining of pay and conditions of the workforce and the standards of care.

Unfortunately – because corporate structures and the system of profit extraction are deliberately complex, confusing and opaque – it is not always easy to evidence the aggressive and rapacious behaviour of big social care providers.

CICTAR’s Death, Deception and Dividends report is therefore a timely and helpful intervention in the debate around the UK’s social care crisis. It is a compelling illustration of how large care home operators like HC-One utilise labyrinthine corporate structures to disguise and extract profit from public contracts through dividends, interest payments and complex property arrangements.

The report – and the associated BBC Panorama programme – will be an important weapon in our arsenal to arm and equip local politicians with the arguments to challenge the outsourcing of social care to unscrupulous employers and to squeeze profits by increasing minimum employment standards. Beyond that, we are already using it to push local authorities to increase transparency and accountability of social care providers by scrutinising where public funds go and, ultimately, use this to build the case for the public delivery of social care.