Today, on Yorkshire Day, we put out an impassioned plea to all those companies and organisations that provide care to older and vulnerable people in our communities to ‘join up and speak up’ for social care.

The challenges facing those who provide care for older and vulnerable adults grow greater every day and it is only by joining together and raising our voices that we are ever going to get anything done about it.

That is why the The Yorkshire and Humber Care Association Alliance (YHCAA) today urges everyone providing social care to join up with their local association and strengthen their voices.

The YHCAA is the officially recognised body representing social care providers across our region. It is represented on the national Care Association Alliance, an umbrella body for care provider associations across the country.

The YHCAA currently comprises Barnsley Independent Care Home Providers Association, Bradford Care Association, Hull and East Riding Care Association, The Independent Care Group (North Yorkshire and York), Kirklees Care Association, Leeds Care Association, Sheffield Care Association and Wakefield (Independent Sector Leadership Group). Between them they already represent hundreds of care providers, small, medium and large, across the private and not for profit sectors.

The Alliance is looking to grow to further strengthen its voice and influence.

At the same time, we need to grow those individual care associations, again to strengthen their local voice and influence.

The Alliance provides leadership, help, support and advice to its membership, shares best practice and works with care commissioners, including local authorities and NHS bodies and other partners to improve the quality of life of those living with a care need. It works on things like improving fees for providers, helping providers get access to training for staff, informing regional and national care policy by sharing information and trends and building greater awareness of social care and care providers.

Alliance members signed a Memorandum of Understanding, formalising the group’s structure and committing to work together to improve care for the many hundreds of thousands of people who rely on social care for their quality of life across the Yorkshire and Humber area.

James Creegan, who is CEO and Chair of the Kirklees Care Association, and I have taken up posts as Board members of the National Care Association Alliance, to represent the views and experiences of care providers in our region, at a national level.

There are great challenges facing social care in our region that cannot be ignored or glossed over. The aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, which had a devastating impact on the sector, allied with the ensuing staffing shortage and now the cost-of-living crisis and rapidly rising bills, have left a sector on its knees, with some providers leaving the industry.

Age UK estimates that 2.6 million people over 50 have unmet social care needs and 1.6m older people can’t get the care they need. Hundreds of thousands of those people will be in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

That’s down to a lack of investment in social care that has left the country without the capacity to provide enough care to people who need it – that is us, our parents, our siblings, our aunts and uncles and friends – everyone.

When the “radical” 15-year plan to reform the NHS was announced it contained a frightening lack of mention of social care. Worthy as the £2.4bn strategy is, to carry out NHS reform without giving similar reform to social care at the same time makes a mockery of the whole plan.

Without a properly funded and fully functioning social care system, NHS healthcare will be hampered, fighting to provide better care with a hand tied behind its back.

We urgently need the two sectors to be merged, to create a National Care Service, bringing parity in funding to both sides of the equation and parity in pay, terms and conditions to the excellent staff who work in social care, take huge responsibility, stress and strain and have never been properly recognised.

As our individual organisations grow their membership and strengthen their voice, so our Alliance will grow its membership and influence so that we can tackle the iniquities outlined above at the very highest level.

For too long, social care has been forgotten and, as regularly demonstrated, seen as the Cinderella industry that never quite went to the ball. Our provider organisations and the Alliance to which they now all belong will campaign to change that. To give a long overdue voice to providers battling to provide enough care and a voice to the millions who cannot get the care they need and have a right to receive.

We urge all care providers and the public who benefit from that care, to support us.