Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/551/6478
A day in the life of a care worker
Getting up at 6am to go to work is normal for a lot of people. This is what I did yesterday, so I was in time to start my shift at 7.45am. It's now 6am the following day and I am still at work where I will stay until 9pm this evening, without a break, still wearing the same clothes I came in with yesterday morning.
I work in a home for adults with learning disabilities. The home is meant to be 'supported living' but our residents range from adults who only need basic care - help with money, cooking etc - to residents who need help in every aspect of their lives, feeding, toileting and washing.
I don't mind the job, I love it some days but everything else from the management to the pay is so demoralising it forces a lot of people out of the job. Three people have left in the past two months and another two have handed in their notices.
By the end of my shift I will have worked 37 hours straight. Many people do more. I know more than one person in my workplace who has gone into work on a Friday morning and not gone home until Monday night.
The rotas are written in pencil, so after the wages have been calculated they can be rubbed out and changed so it doesn't show how many hours people have worked without a break.
Low pay and under-staffing
There are two main reasons why people work so many hours. Firstly is the pay, we are on £9,000 basic a year. I find this difficult to live on and I still live with my mum. The workforce is mainly made up of young women and quite a few of them have young children still not in school.
The cost of living is constantly going up and up and for the second year running we have been told we will not be getting a pay rise.
We are dangerously under-staffed. Two residents who pay for one-to-one care live in a unit with eight other people, which is staffed by two people in the day and one at night, so overtime is always available.
Yesterday, when I was at work, I was begged to do a night shift. I was told: "Think of the money". But I also thought of the residents. The management are quite happy to let a home be run with some units not staffed at all.
Protocol is that, if they are unable to find enough staff for us to operate, the manager and deputy manager should step in and work the shift. But they are not always willing to do this, especially on a night shift!
The unit I am in at the moment has eight men, one who has been known to run away and four who can be violent. So if I didn't do the shift last night then the unit would have been dangerously understaffed.
Luckily for my company they have caring carers who are absolutely broke.
We are constantly being asked to break the law. Over three months ago a resident was moved into a two-storey unit who has no mobility and whose bedroom was upstairs. They installed a stair lift for her but gave us no other equipment to help us with her.
For almost two weeks we had to get four people to lift her into the stair lift and then again into a wheelchair upstairs and then again into her bed. This was a normal bed and couldn't be raised, so we had to change her bending low down, which is back-breaking.
Legally, what we should have done is left her and not done a thing. But how many people do you know who would have left an incontinent woman sitting on a chair for just under two weeks without a wash or changing her pad?
In the end we did get a correct bed from the company, and we did get one hoist. But not from the home, from someone who visited her who happened to work for the NHS at the local hospital and brought one in that they didn't need anymore!
The reason they moved in a person that the home was completely unsuitable for, was money. We had an empty bed for seven months and the person who came in was high dependency and so paid more money. It's the same reason we have low pay and work long hours, it's all about profit.
Private companies in the care industry put the standard of care below their profits. They will try and get away with breaking every rule going if it means they can upgrade to business class on their next flight out to the Bahamas.
If the people I work with have more than £13,000 in their account, then their benefits are stopped. Their benefits are their only income. Not only do they have to pay for clothes, food, rent and other bills, but they also have to pay for the care they receive - pads, specialised chairs that cost around £3,000, special beds, day services and of course the profits of the owners of the home they live in.
The Socialist Party says no to privatisation! We need to fight against big business in our health and social care services and put the residents and workers first.
Workers in care homes need to stand up for their own rights and the rights of the people they help. We need to unite with people who work in other industries and fight for a better, socialist world.
In The Socialist 8 October 2008:
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