Don’t Care….

care crisisCare workers are much maligned, and often with good reason.

However, I recently spoke to a carer who threw some light on what it’s really like.

She earns the minimum wage, is on a zero-hours contract and knows that she is at the mercy of her boss.

She can be dismissed at any time, forced to take on extra hours at any time and never knows from one week to the next how many hours she will have. She works with clients who have complex medical problems, is expected to administer medication and frequently has to break health and safety rules.

Here’s just two of her typical daily calls:

7.15am – 8.15 am – use own car to drive several miles, first dropping her kids off at  a friend’s house. In the space of an hour, she will wash and dress the client, strip the bed, make the bed, empty urine bottles, clean up a spilled urine bottle, clean the bathroom, wash dishes, prepare breakfast, administer medication, prepare lunch for later, put laundry on, hang laundry from yesterday, iron a shirt, talk to client, pick them up when they fall, write up notes and fill in medication chart, sweep the floor, put bins out, help client with a daunting letter from social services, reassure client, make a cup of tea.

And all for less than £7.

8.15am – 8.30am – there is no travelling time between clients, so she will be late as it will take her 25 minutes to get to her next client. A 15 minute call (a favourite of care companies, detested by the care workers). Here she will administer medication, prepare a lunch for later, make a cup of tea, wash up, put bins out and talk to the client while filling in even more charts.

And all for under £2.

There is then a 3 hour gap. As she lives 10 miles away and petrol is expensive, it’s not worth her going home (she has no petrol allowance for travel to and from her house). So she parks up and sits in her car.  By the time she finishes work for the day (a couple of half hour calls), she picks up her kids and gets home at 6pm. She has clocked up a mere 5 hours of wages.

With such appalling conditions, who’d be a carer? The responsibility is huge, the rewards minimal. The only winners are the care company bosses who coin it in at the expense of exploited workers. Most carers are dedicated and want to make a difference. Most leave within a year, worn out by a system that doesn’t care.

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10 thoughts on “Don’t Care….

  1. Bob Spriggs says:

    An impossible job, done by invisible people for negligible reward! You’re absolutely right to draw attention to the scandal of undervalued and underpaid carers. If they were bankers they’d be holding out for a huge bonus but, as they are not dealing in money, just looking after our weakest and most in need, they are more likely to be sacked than rewarded if they miss a target. I have to fume quietly. Don’t want to raise my core temperature and have to seek the refuge of the sofa. Quiet, cold anger will have to do. Aaargh!

    • stumbling in flats says:

      I totally agree. It’s shocking how we treat the weaker people in our society. Not just the people being cared for, but the vulnerable workers who are subject to the most terrible conditions.
      i heard some truly gobsmacking tales. Workers not being provided with proper training, workers entering unsanitary environments and workers expected to have knowledge of a range of illnesses from dementia to paralysis. It’s impossible.

  2. Sally says:

    It really makes you want to scream. I think a lot of us with chronic diseases are terrified by stories like this because in the back of our minds we can’t help but think that one day we may need help from people like this. I was shouting at the tv the other day when there was a discussion about raising minimum wage/implementing living wage. I couldn’t believe the spokesperson from the companies kept a straight face when saying that companies don’t back the raise as it could affect competitiveness. No worries then that average people can’t afford to live and have to use food banks to survive. Minor detail.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      It worries me too, to be honest. Not just for me, but elderly family members.
      Care workers are routinely exploited, as are the people they care for. All councils care about is keeping costs at an absolute minimum. Nothing else. And this is then passed to the private care companies who have tendered the lowest possible price for the contract.

  3. stevedomino says:

    my 92 yr-old gran had a stroke last summer – after coming out of hospital, she has had 4 carer visits a day (usually 2 carers at a time but sometimes one).

    thanks for this post – in my family’s current situation, it has obvious resonance.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Thanks Steve,
      I think a lot of us will face similar situations with family members.
      I know I worry already. Something has to change.

      • I was there with my elderly slightly demented mother. The carers had no time for TLC etc, that was in 2006.

        Maybe the fault lies with our society. Flexible and fluid work arrangements mean that young adults have to leave home to get work. They get married and they then have to pay for child minders. Then when we, the parents, are ill the family is not local when the parent needs looking after so we need carers

        In the good old days the family unit stayed quite close. We are now paying the price of everyone moving away to get work.

        That’s progress or mayber the modern society

        • stumbling in flats says:

          You’re absolutely right Patrick. Like you say, before it would be families and neighbours who cared for each other. Now it’s run by private companies whose sole aim is profit. Profit and caring make for uneasy bedfellows.

  4. That is just awful. Hard to imagine working at such an important, yet in so many ways thankless, job.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      I think it’s only going to get worse as our population ages and like Patrick said, families are so fragmented now.
      Something really needs to be done to raise standards and also ensure the care workers are properly trained, looked out for and paid a decent wage!

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