Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Occupy The Care Homes

According to Channel 4 News, tonight, the announcement of 3,000 redundancies by private Care Home provider, Southern Cross, is symptomatic of a much wider financial problem, which is already having an effect on the quality of care provided.
Meanwhile UNISON, also quoted in the report says,

“Four Seasons, the second biggest care provider is also in severe financial difficulties. If both Southern Cross and Four Seasons were to collapse, around 1,150 nursing and residential care homes would be at risk of closure, affecting nearly 50,000 vulnerable people and their families and hitting over 60,000 staff.”

According to documents seen by Channel 4,

“Headed "draft for agreement - not government policy", the paper sets out how local authorities will have to manage the transfer of residents to alternative care homes.

The industry watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, will "provide intelligence" about the location and quality of any alternative centres.

And central government, along with other responsibilities, should consider setting up a "national helpline" for those worried about family caught up in the crisis.

A Department of Health spokesperson confirmed to Channel 4 News that the government had prepared the document in order to properly plan for every eventuality.”

But, as they point out this is not Government policy, but only a draft for agreement. Given the incompetence this Government has shown from Day 1, and given its propensity to change policy by endless U-Turns, whenever it faces some kind of pressure, this is not very comforting for those worried about their relatives in these care Homes.

But, for that reason alone, we cannot simply wait, and ask the State to intervene as Dave Prentice suggests.
The Liberal-Tory Government that he wants to intervene to save the Care Homes, is the same Government whose Cuts programme is partly to blame for the problems those homes face! It has reduced the amount paid in grant to Local Authorities, who now are passing that on in reduced Social Care budgets, and payments for Residential Care. Asking the Liberal-Tory Government to intervene to stop Care Home closures is like asking Hitler to intervene to stop the Brown Shirts attacking Jewish property!

Now is the time for the Labour Movement, and those unions like UNISON most responsible for the provision of Health and Social Care to intervene themselves.
Already, we have seen workers prepared to act rather than wait, as in the case of the New Cross Library occupation, along with all of the University Occupations organised by Students and their supporters amongst staff.

The Labour Movement should begin to occupy the Care Homes now to ensure that they are not closed, jobs are not lost, and residents do not face life threatening disruptions.
Immediately, they have been occupied, staff should organise meetings with the relatives of residents to organise Support Committees, and Joint Management Boards to discuss how provision can be maintained and improved. The Public Sector unions have a vital role to play in helping to organise such occupations, and providing all of the immediate back-up and support that will be required, and in extending the action to bring in the support of workers in ancillary services, and supplying firms.
Local Trades Councils have an important role to play in establishing Support Committees that can link up the Occupations with local Anti-Cuts Campaigns, with Tenants and Residents Associations, and other such bodies to build a widespread network of support.

Having occupied the establishments, a campaign needs to be built to ensure that the Government rubber stamps the workers ownership and control of all the facilities, in the same way that workers in Argentina in places such as Zanon, were able to get the ownership of businesses legally transferred to them.

These Care Homes constitute a sizeable industry, and the Public Sector unions can again play an important role in ensuring that once the workers have taken them over, they can be brought together into one large Worker Owned Care Co-operative operating throughout the country, and able to benefit from economies of scale.
The lesson that has to be learned from the experience of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders is that once in the workers ownership and control, these businesses must not be handed over to the Capitalist State. All experience of such nationalisation is that the Capitalist State will use it to bring about a large scale rationalisation, resulting in mass redundancies and speed-up, ahead of the business eventually being sold-off again to private Capital, once it has been rationalised, and made profitable.

This should mark the beginning of the fightback against the Cuts, against privatisation, and against the Liberal-Tory attacks. A successful campaign of occupations, and the establishment of worker-owned and controlled Care Co-operatives can show how workers in the private and State capitalist sectors can effectively oppose attempts at closures, and reductions in provision. It can show how another, better socialistic, method of running society can be established here and now, without the need for bosses or State bureaucrats.


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