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.