Why I let the cameras in for BBC documentary Inside the Care Crisis with Ed Balls - Mike Padgham

OH, the price of trying to get improvements in social care! This month the first part of a two-part documentary, partly filmed at my nursing and care homes, was broadcast on BBC2.

Inside the Care Crisis with Ed Balls was filmed during the summer and included footage taken at Saint Cecilia’s Nursing Home and Saint Cecilia’s Care Home, as well as other care settings. The second part is tonight.

My motivation for allowing the cameras into my homes was to give the public, and politicians, a realistic picture of what delivering care looks like in 2021 and was part of a campaign for change and improvement for social care.

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Ed Balls with Phyllis from the programme.Picture: BBC/ Stuart Wood.

On the whole, I believe the end result succeeds in giving a decent warts-and-all view of the challenges facing care. At times it isn’t an easy watch but, believe me, delivering care isn’t easy either.

Of course whenever you put your head above the barricade to do something like this you can expect the brickbats to fly. And putting my homes front and centre in a television documentary has inevitably drawn the attention of the inspection regime.

But I’m pleased to say the reaction has on the whole been more positive than negative. This was never about putting the spotlight on my homes but more about campaigning for better funding for the care sector and improvements for the amazing people who work in it.

If I had a hope for the programme, it is that it would stir some people into action. I want the Government to respond to the issues raised in the documentary. Ed Balls, the former politician who fronts the programme, has admitted that he thought he knew what care entailed but has realised since making the film that he didn’t.

I believe there are many in politics who are in the same position, of not really knowing what social care does and the value it brings to the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people at home and in care and nursing homes.

And they don’t realise how hard carers work, how under-paid and under-valued they are and how little money there is in the sector to care for people.

I have invited Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Social Care Minister Gillian Keegan to a special showing of both parts of the documentary in Scarborough in December. This will include a question-and-answer session with Ed Balls and the production company that made the two films. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss the issues raised in the programme and talk, together, about finding solutions.

As is so often the case with these invitations, they have so far gone unanswered, even though I have also said I am willing to travel to Westminster, as I have on many occasions before, to meet the two of them.

With the documentary showing so vividly how on a knife-edge the provision of care to vulnerable people is at the moment, I might have hoped for better.

I might also have hoped that on one issue there might have been a little flexibility shown this week and that is compulsory vaccinations for care workers. Sadly, the “no jab, no job” policy came into effect on Thursday, despite the best efforts of many to have it postponed.

Acknowledging that a tough winter lies ahead, Mr Javid has delayed the imposition of compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for NHS staff until next April. And he has done the same for those providing care in people’s own homes.

But the policy remained for those working in care and nursing homes and it has piled further staffing pressure on homes already struggling to fill shifts and provide proper care.

Mr Javid argues that the vaccine is necessary to protect the safety of residents, but surely their safety is being put in just as much jeopardy through a shortage of staff as it is from being looked after by unvaccinated staff. Staff can, after all, wear enhanced personal protective equipment and take daily Covid-19 tests to protect those they care for. Don’t get me wrong, I am in favour of the vaccine, but I also accept that it has to be a personal choice and not forced upon the individual.

Like on this and so many other issues allied to the care crisis, we will not give in and will continue to fight for better funding to reward staff properly and give them the career structure and the respect they deserve.

We will continue to fight for people with dementia and demand that they are treated the same as people with other life-limiting illnesses and their care funded accordingly. And we will continue to fight for all of those who are currently living without the care they need. They all deserve better.

Inside the Care Crisis with Ed Balls is on BBC2 tonight at 9pm.

Mike Padgham, from Scarborough, is chair of the Independent Care Group.