Poorly paid careworkers are routinely faced with a choice they shouldn’t have to make: work overtime for free or leave vulnerable clients without the basic care they need and deserve. The UK care industry is already creaking at the seams. With a million more careworkers needed over the next decade alone to meet the rising demand for care of the most vulnerable people in society, something’s got to give. You can help.
Swingeing cuts to local authority budgets in recent years have seen more and more care services outsourced into a poorly regulated private care sector where competition has driven wages, job security and care quality down:
- Today’s careworkers (80% of them women) are already paid £130 million a year less than the minimum wage.
- Nearly 60% of home care workers are estimated to be on zero-hours contracts, with limited employment rights.
- Dissatisfaction and disillusionment is driving staff turnover up – and continuity of care down.
An unwelcome dilemma
This week, a BBC exposé on care company MiHomeCare highlighted a very unwelcome dilemma for thousands of careworkers in the UK. In a race for profits, providers commonly schedule back to back appointments with inadequate time for travel. This means home visits are often left impossibly short, putting workers under pressure to either leave early and let down the people who desperately need them or stay late on their own time (putting pressure on their own family and social lives) to provide the necessary level of care. The proliferation of zero hours contracts is also weakening employment rights and putting further financial pressure on care staff. In many cases, providers fail to pay workers for travel costs between appointments and essential work-related expenses such as uniforms, mobile phones or petrol. Clearly this is unacceptable, but when your contract allows your employer to terminate your job with impunity at short notice, demanding fair treatment is a risky business. These unfair working conditions contribute to high levels of staff turnover and it is the most vulnerable people, such as elderly and disabled clients, who suffer most as a result: instead of consistent, continuous support from people they have come to trust over time and who understand their needs, they are attended to by a succession of temporary and often inexperienced ‘strangers’.
Help fix a system in crisis
We’ve heard from hundreds of care workers who care passionately about the people they work with, but feel they are fighting a system in crisis. They need your help. Care union UNISON and the TUC have already put the wheels in motion to try to fix a care system in crisis. 13,000 people have petitioned the government to end the scandal of illegal pay in care. We've had initial success with a commitment to investigate six of the biggest care providers, which is great news, but we don’t want to see any backsliding on this hard-won progress, so please get behind the petition to reinstate full minimum wage compliance inspections in the sector if you haven’t already. UNISON have also recently launched the Save Care Now campaign to press for change where you are. Local councils are allowing care providers they have commissioned to cut corners. We want people like you to call on them to sign an ‘Ethical Care Charter’ committing the care providers they hire to guarantee basic standards of care, health , safety and dignity for the vulnerable people they serve. You can email your council here. By helping us hold the government and local authorities to account, together we can make a real difference to the lives and livelihoods of clients and careworkers alike, and create a care sector that’s fit for purpose – and for the future.