Time to care: Homecare workers speak out
Can you imagine having to have someone else help you brush your teeth? How about to get you out of bed, or even to wash you? What if it was a stranger each time?
Over half a million adults in the UK rely on homecare workers to help them with these kinds of activities, as well as with health related tasks like administering medicine.
Many people who work in homecare are members of UNISON, and they keep telling the union how worried they are. They’re worried because councils are allowing care providers to cut corners. They’re worried because the elderly and disabled people that need homecare are not getting the time or support they should.
While these homecare workers can see the problems in their sector – and keep telling UNISON about them – many of them don’t want to speak out publicly because they’re afraid of losing their job.
This anonymous comment says it all:
“I have seen many good workers leave frustrated at the poor pay and the way zero hours contracts are used by way of punishment and reward. If you turn down a shift, hours you were depending on can be taken and given to others, sometimes with only hours’ notice. I have seen how many use this as a way to simply force out staff who may have complained about quality of care. Is this acceptable? Duty of care means that we have to raise concerns, yet many are too scared of the implications financially if they do.”
That’s why UNISON is running the Save Care Now campaign. The campaign is acting on the deep concern homecare workers have, but for most of them it uses their voices anonymously so that they don’t risk losing work.
The main aim is to get councils to sign UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter. The charter is a set of commitments that ensure the health, safety, and dignity of people who need homecare and homecare workers. The commitments are things like paying workers for their travel time (which would mean they are not illegally paid below the minimum wage), making sure all visits are longer than 15 minutes, training homecare workers adequately, ending zero hour contracts, and paying homecare workers the Living Wage (the real one that is, not George Osborne’s).
Treating homecare workers with a bit more respect too will mean better treatment of vulnerable people.
The measures in the charter will save councils money – as better homecare means less people in residential care, which is more expensive. It will also mean councils retain trained staff, and – most importantly – it will mean vulnerable people are treated well and retain their dignity. It’s time to care.