“A Green National Care Service care can build a caring economy that benefits people and the planet.”
By Rebecca Long-Bailey MP.
The Green New Deal is not just a vehicle to tackle climate change and ensure the health of future generations, it is also the biggest economic lever we have ever had to implement the radical economic change needed to tackle social injustice and inequality.
The last Labour manifesto set out a bold ambitious green programme called the Green Industrial Revolution focusing on a range of industrial measures such as the decarbonisation of energy and transport, home retrofitting, publicly owned energy and water, a just transition for affected workers as well as unionised, well paid workforces and much more.
But it is important to note that whilst these key industrial measures are urgently necessary, they form only a small part of a true Green New Deal Agenda. The ultimate goal should not just be about increasing investment in climate friendly technologies, it should about greening every aspect of society and instigating long term systemic economic change.
The next step of Labour’s vision must therefore use the power of the Green New Deal to improve lives beyond the well discussed industrial sectors and one right at the top of the agenda must be Social Care.
We must of course retain our firm commitment to a public National Care Service just like the NHS, funded not by pushing those who have seen their income drop into further into poverty or selling people’s homes, but by ending the unfairness that sees income from wealth taxed at lower rates than income from work. But in developing this care service we must also develop a Green National Care Service. This requires recognising that care jobs are green jobs and should be paid as such, and that investing in care, in its physical infrastructure and care technologies is investing in a sustainable future.
As an industry, demand for care is increasing and yet it produces relatively low greenhouse emissions compared to many other sectors, but that is just the start. Through creative innovations about how care is delivered and the homes we live in, we can deliver secure and well-paid work, build green infrastructure and support people in our community to live their best lives. This can only strengthen our economy in a sustainable way, and take some of the pressures off the NHS and other public services.
By delivering fair and inclusive unionised work, with good pay, terms and conditions, as well as apprenticeships and ongoing training, we can address staff shortages as well as retaining experienced staff. Financial and respite support must also be provided for unwaged carers because by supporting them in a similar model to foster care, more families will be able to choose to care for their loved ones in their own home.
Greening care spaces and practices is also critical. Government research spending should be allocated to the brilliant emerging cutting edge technologies that monitor or assist those receiving care, and these technologies should come with a green kite mark to evidence that they are produced and function in a sustainable way. Further through targeted investment, homes and care homes can be transformed by retrofitting them to the highest energy-efficiency standards thus reducing energy bills and eliminating fuel poverty. We should also roll out technologies like heat pumps and solar hot water so that the homes and care homes can generate their own energy.
For those wanting to downsize, move closer to family, or to a more suitable property for their needs we could not only pledge to build more suitable green council homes, but examine new housing models such as co-housing, common ground trusts, as well as creating Public Development Corporations to buy land and build new specific ‘Green Care and Retirement Villages’ that not only provide green, high quality homes and green space but reduce travel for carers.
The Green National Care Service should also be paired with investment in green, low carbon public transport such as electric buses, bringing bus and rail services back into public ownership and improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure. But more than this, we can make carers lives easier and strengthen the UK’s car manufacturing industry by creating electric community car sharing clubs for carers.
These are just a few ideas. A Green National Care Service care can build a caring economy that benefits people and the planet. If we are serious about the Green New Deal then we must also be serious about making overall quality of life for all its central pillar and rethinking what work counts as part of a just and sustainable society.