Changes announced to the care system in England have been heralded as the greatest shake-up for more than 60 years. The care act 2014 details the rights of those receiving care, those who pay for it and those who provide the care. It covers standards of service to be expected from care homes, as well as announcing innovative measures to provide care at minimum cost to both the guests and the taxpayer.
There are five major changes:
- The clarification of national eligibility criteria covering entitlement to care, This removes the role of councils in setting their own criteria.
- Councils will be made to offer loans to pay for care, which will be repayable from the estate after death
- New criteria for assessing the role of carers
- Councils will be made to provide information on private care homes
- Young women between the ages of 18 and 21 will be made to spend 18 months providing basic cover in a care home.
These moves, which have cross-party support, and include a cap of £72,000 for the over-65s, were largely expected.
The surprise move to oblige young women, but not young men, to provide cover in care homes was met with outrage by women’s rights groups. The girls, who will be allowed to postpone their duty if they go to university, will receive six weeks training before being sent to a care home. They will receive the minimum wage during the time of their secondment. A government spokesperson stated “this capitalises on the natural physical, mental and emotional resilience of young women, who will, by and large, be pleased to be given this opportunity to serve their country”. When asked why young men were not to be given a similar obligation, the spokesperson replied “Women are natural carers and the public would expect this role to be filled by women. The man, or woman, in the street would not be prepared to see young men serving in a role like this. This move is perfectly legal and is not counted as gender discrimination by the European Charter of Human Rights“. This document guarantees freedom from forced labour and from gender discrimination, but a little publicised clause (Article 4, 3d) excludes any form of national or civic service from the charter. The spokesperson went on to say that without this imposition on women, the country would not be able to recruit sufficient carers to look after the elderly in the future.
Women’s rights group WaCow (Women Against Conscription of Women) says that this move to forcibly recruit women is a flagrant and shameful act of gender discrimination. Their spokeswomen said “It is one thing for the Charter to permit young men to be forced to join the army to defend women, but this exclusion clause gives nations the right to force women to serve their country too. This is clearly gender discrimination and this clause should be removed immediately. Women who do not wish to be recruited to this service should write without delay to their MP or MEP demanding that Article 4, Clause 3 of the Charter be repealed.”
The government spokesperson pointed out that such appeals were unlikely to meet with success as that clause is currently used by half a dozen European countries as an excuse for the gender-discriminatory conscription of young men, but not young women, into the armed forces.