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From: The Socialist issue 926, 23 November 2016: Fight austerity

Search site for keywords: Care worker - Pay - Profit - Homes - Healthcare - Minimum wage

"I don't always feel that I'm a carer anymore" - a day in the life

photo Chris Marchant (Creative Commons)

photo Chris Marchant (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

A care worker, almost anywhere in England

On 12-13 November I attended Socialism 2016. I have been to this event before but never felt the need to say anything. However this time I could not keep quiet. I have worked in healthcare for many years, mainly in nursing homes.

I love my job, but things have changed. The home where I am now employed is run by a private company which appears to put profit before the safety and well-being of both staff and residents.

The company does not pay sick pay, so when we had an outbreak of diarrhoea and vomiting last year, which affected many of the staff, we had to take time off for which we didn't get paid. I lost a week's pay. I know of others who came to work ill as they could not afford to lose this money. The reason given by the company for not paying sick pay was that they think it will encourage people to take time off!

They have also said they had been considering introducing sick pay but then had to pay the minimum wage which was costing them 2 million (the company made over 20 million in profit last year).

As the staff representative, I have asked why we cannot get paid a little more when we are short staffed and was told that if they did, it would encourage us to work understaffed. In practice this happens on a regular basis as they do not recruit agency staff. I do not know any member of staff who would put money above the safety and well-being of the people in our care.

What this policy means is that staffing numbers are calculated on the basis of funding, not the needs of the residents, which the company claims is its prime objective. This policy also means that people who are in the last stages of their lives are left on their own as there is nobody free to sit with them. People who cannot help themselves are hurried with food and drinks.

Profit before care means that residents who have an incontinence problem are only given three pads a day by the NHS (the home is meant to give more). This means one in the morning, one before going to bed and one in the night. Often this is not enough and we regularly have to take pads from other people or keep the pad on longer than is hygienic. Where is the dignity for our residents in that!

I once saw an ad that said you could make 1 million from owning a care home and yes maybe by putting profit first you can, but that's not care.

I love my job but with more and more responsibility put on us and fewer and fewer staff, I don't always feel that I'm a carer anymore, but just the person who hurries to get your mum or dad up, washed, dressed and given breakfast in the 25 minute slot allotted. Where is the care in that?

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Article dated 23 November 2016

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